In 1837, Baltimore portraitist Alfred Jacob Miller accepted an invitation to join Scottish nobleman Capt. William Drummond Stewart on a six-month adventure to the Rocky Mountains. The expedition, along the Oregon Trail to the annual gathering of the fur trade, transformed Miller into an artist whose name is synonymous with the American West.
The fall, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, MO., presents Romancing the West: Alfred Jacob Miller in the Bank of America Collection. Thirty engaging works on paper, not seen in public since 1964, chronicles the views of one of the first American artists to paint the “Far West,” considered at the time as exotic and distant. These vibrant and poetic images depict legendary mountain men, American Indian life, and scenic landscapes.
Based on his experience, but peppered with the perceptions and attitudes of his era, Miller's portrayal of the West blended fiction with reality.
Margaret C. Conrads, Samuel Sosland Senior Curator, American Art, at the Nelson-Atkins and curator of the exhibition, explains, “Viewers will find that fact mixes with fantasy to reflect life on the frontier both as it was and as it was imagined to be.”
The Bank of America collection presents a fascinating view of Miller's process with intermediary work based on his field sketches and in preparation for watercolor and oils commissioned by patrons.
After debuting at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, from Sept. 25, 2010-January 9, 2011, the exhibition will travel to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 2011.