Bison jumps would have taken place in the summer or fall, when large numbers of bison congregated in herds. Their timing depended on the proximity of a bison to a cliff. It is very unlikely that Miller witnessed a buffalo jump; nothing in his notes indicates that he did. But he surely heard tales of such a dramatic process from the trappers and chose to include this scene in the sketch album for Stewart.
Here we see Stewart at the middle right on a white horse, improbably participating in a bison jump. Stewart dashes in, joining Indians armed with lances in the dangerous work of driving the bison toward the cliff. In characteristic fashion, Miller has rendered Stewart and the Indians astride graceful steeds. Despite the danger, the horses arch their backs and daintily lift their legs as they lightly bound toward their prey. Miller’s coloring reinforces the tone set by his draftsmanship. The sky is a mixture of robins-egg blue, lavender, and pink, setting off the dark sepia mass of bison. At the lower right, a bright swath of chartreuse surrounds the three mounted figures, highlighting their energetic forms as they burst forth in three different directions.
UL: 65. LC of mount: Driving herds of Buffalo over a precipice.–
The artist; Sir William Drummond Stewart, 1839; Frank Nichols Stewart, 1871; [Chapman’s, Edinburg, Scotland, 1871]; Bonamy Mansell Power; willed to Edward Power, 1900; by descent to Major G.H. Power, Great Yarmouth, England; [Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York, NY, 1966]; InterNorth Art Foundation, Omaha, NE; present owner