Miller’s last major commission was for a set of forty watercolors and accompanying notes for Alexander Brown of Liverpool, a partner in the Baltimore-based banking and credit information firm of Alexander Brown and Sons. The subjects were selected from Miller’s existing stock of preparatory sketches and several of the selections, including A Reconnoitre, overlap with the subjects in the Walters collection.
The theme of the Brown watercolors is quasi-ethnographic, with an emphasis on scenes of Indian hunting, warfare, and portraiture. Miller’s accompanying notes repeat the text of the Walters notes, but, as in this case, some add specific references to Native American practices or specific affiliations. The note to this sketch identifies the subject as Crow and adds some generalizations about the Crow as a group.
As is characteristic of Miller’s style in the Brown commission, the image contains copiously brushed fringe, hair, and foliage details. Some scholars have criticized Miller’s late watercolors for their over-wrought style and layers of opaque paint, perhaps because their seeming laboriousness further distances the images temporally and conceptually from the freshness of his initial sketches. The brushwork in A Reconnoitre does not conceal elements of Miller’s draughtsmanship, but rather embellishes forms, conveying the assurance of an artist who has painted a subject enough times to master its challenges.
LC: AJMiller. on mat LL: No. 14./Reconnoitre.
The artist; Alexander Brown, Liverpool, England, 1867; by descent to Mrs. J.B. Jardine, Chesterknowes, Scotland; present owner by gift