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ALFRED JACOB MILLER (American, 1810-1874)

ALFRED JACOB MILLER (American, 1810-1874)

Item Description:


'Caravan en route' [Stewart's caravan]
pen, pencil and ink wash on paper
h. 7-1/4 w. 13-3/4 in. overall: 12-1/2 x 18-3/4 in.
circa 1837, inscribed 'Caravan en route' in pencil lower left, framed

Literature: Alfred Jacob Miller: Artist on The Oregon Trail, edited by Ron Tyler with a Catalogue Raisonne by Karen Dewees Reynolds and Wiliam R. Johnston, Amon Carter Museum, 1982, catalogue No. 60F, p.214

A retired British army captain and Scottish nobleman who lost his inheritance to his brother, Sir William Drummond Stewart sought escape from his Old World surroundings and the thrill of the Western hunt was the perfect solution for a “bored veteran”* in his position. He had stumbled across Alfred Jacob Miller’s newly-established studio in New Orleans, and, impressed with what he saw, invited the young artist on a six-month excursion to the Rocky Mountains. There they would attend the great annual rendezvous of fur trappers and traders, “one of the true spectacles that the West had to offer”*, an event thatStewart, having attended several years prior, wished to document by bringing along an expedition artist. By this time (1837) only two other American artists had seen the frontier first-hand—George Catlin and Karl Bodmer—and neither of them had ventured as far west as Miller would. Having yet to receive a commission of this size, Miller eagerly accepted Stewart’s offer and joined the caravan on their journey into the frontier, likely following what would become The Oregon Trail as they made their way to the Rocky Mountains.



The expedition gave Miller a lifetime's worth of source material that he would use for the rest of his career. Utilizing his trailside sketches, he would create finished works in his studio decades later, often producing multiple iterations of the same scene. This is the case with this particular sketch which is related to at least seven other known works by Miller, each showing a caravan receding into the distance in a great arc starting with riders in the lower right corner. Six of these show Stewart at the center conspicuously seated on his white horse—a feature that is notably absent from the current sketch. Miller’s multiple versions are often difficult to arrange in chronological order, but Stewart’s absence in the current work may suggest an early date of 1837, especially since it shares other similarities with other known trailside sketches, including the sheet size, the use of ink wash, and the later annotation in the lower left corner. The sketch has most in common with an oil the artist completed around 1850 (sold at Sotheby's in New York on 11/29/2012, lot 55), “one of the few oil paintings that Miller finished of the prairie scenes”*.



*Ron Tyler ed. Alfred Jacob Miller: Artist on the Oregon Trail, Fort Worth, Texas, 1982


Click here to see additional photographs

Condition:

tack-hole lower right corner, a few spot stains lower margin and right margin, small tear upper margin, some rippling in paper, 'floating' in the frame with hinges in the corners

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ALFRED JACOB MILLER (American, 1810-1874)

Listed price: $20,000.00
 

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