Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Alfred Jacob Miller (1810-1874) - Young Woman of the Flat Head Tribe

Alfred Jacob Miller (American artist, 1810-1874) A Young Woman of the Flat Head Tribe

In July of 1858, Baltimore art collector William T. Walters commissioned 200 watercolors at $12  apiece from Baltimore-born artist Alfred Jacob Miller. These paintings were each accompanied by a descriptive text written by the artist, & were delivered in installments over the next 21 months & ultimately bound in 3 albums. These albums included the field-sketches drawn during Miller's 1837 expedition to the annual fur-trader's rendezvous in the Green River Valley (now western Wyoming).  These watercolors offer a unique record of the the lives of those involved in the closing years of the western fur trade & a look at the artist's opinions of both women & Native Americans. 

One of the social highlights of the rendezvous occurred when this young woman ("quite a belle," Miller thought) ran off with a "stalwart Canadian trapper." Not knowing that the trapper had already begun paying court to the girl, one of Miller's friends, a young man from St. Louis named Phillipson, decided that she would be his. His presents and attentions were "kindly received," Miller noted, encouraging the young man. Phillipson felt embarrassed before the whole camp when the "simple Indian girl," realizing that her future was with the trapper, stole off quietly. Phillipson initially was "crest-fallen and melancholy," Miller recorded, but later regained his serenity.  The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, Maryland.