In his notes, Miller recalled that he and his fur trapper friends particularly enjoyed the company of the Crow Indian depicted in this portrait. (Ross, 43; Rough Draughts, 117) Miller wrote that this man was uniquely “jolly and extremely good natured,” comparing him favorably to Mark Tapley, the jovial character from Charles Dickens’s Martin Chuzzlewit (1843 – 1844). The sitter’s slight smile and warm expression corroborate Miller’s description.
This painting is more heavily worked than most of Miller’s watercolor portraits. Though the background is composed of feathery pastel washes, Miller depicted his sitter with a convincing sense of volume. In particular, the subject’s face and hair are sensitively modeled with highlights and shadows, while dashes of white gouache evoke a dewy complexion.
The sitter’s embellished clothing is also carefully described at his shoulders, but details soften at the lower edge of the composition. As Joan Troccoli suggests, Miller worked in the tradition of such “painterly portraitists” as Thomas Sully and Sir Thomas Lawrence, whose primary goal in portraiture was “the representation of the sitter’s face and the costume elements closest to it.” (Troccoli, 6)
LR: AJM. 117.
The artist; William T. Walters, Baltimore, MD; present owner by gift