Alfred Jacob Miller: Inspiration to Last a Lifetime

Perceptive visitors to the Fur Traders & Rendezvous website will notice repeated subjects among the seven hundred or so images included in the online catalogue. In fact, upon selecting an artwork to view, one can scroll down to see related works conveniently grouped together. These compositions may vary in size, format, palette, medium, or level of detail, but their subjects are often strikingly similar. Alfred Jacob Miller regularly recreated favored themes based on his trip west in 1837. While on the trail, the artist made field sketches which he later refined into polished studio paintings. So rich and unique was the source material Miller gathered on his only western venture that he worked from it for the rest of his life. Miller’s first major patron of western work was Captain William Drummond Stewart of Scotland, with whom he traveled to the Rocky Mountains. Stewart hired Miller to produce a pictorial record of their adventure, and Miller fulfilled the assignment with eighty-seven watercolor and wash paintings bound as a commemorative album. Miller went on to produce large oil-on-canvas paintings for Stewart’s Murthly Castle, and later accepted commissions from William T. Walters, Alexander Hargreaves Brown, and book publishers. At his patrons’ request, Miller crafted new versions of his most compelling western subjects. He enlarged compositions, replaced or modified figures, or added or removed landscape elements to carefully craft ever more romantic and interesting images.