The Indian Guide, c. 1840–60, by Alfred Jacob Miller (Bank of America Collection)
Romancing the West: Alfred Jacob Miller in the Bank of America Collection
June 4, 2011 - September 18, 2011Baltimore native Alfred Jacob Miller (1810–1874), one of the first American artists to paint the Far West, is best remembered for his vivid chronicles of the Western fur trade and his romanticized depictions of mountain men, American Indian subjects, exotic wildlife, and the region’s stunning topography. Romancing the West closely studies an intriguing selection of thirty rarely seen watercolors, surveying Miller’s most revered body of work: images of the West based on his 1837 trip accompanying the Scottish adventurer Captain William Drummond Stewart. Bound for the annual rendezvous of trappers, traders, and Native Americans at the base of Wyoming’s Wind River Mountains, Stewart’s troupe traveled west from Saint Louis, following a route later known as the Oregon Trail. For nearly three decades following this groundbreaking journey, Miller received commissions for watercolors and oil paintings inspired by his remarkable travels. His poetic figure studies, picturesque landscapes, and engaging scenes of daily life along the trail expressed his own romantic attitudes and helped shape public perceptions of the West. For many mid-nineteenth-century Americans living along the Eastern seaboard, as well as for European patrons like Stewart, Miller’s paintings offered a glimpse of a thrillingly unknown, frequently mythologized region of the country. The works presented in Romancing the West, lent courtesy of the Bank of America Collection, mix fact with fantasy, reflecting frontier life both as it was and as it was imagined to be.