Miller’s West

The West Miller painted included a unique blend of imagined scenes with actual people, places and events. Miller rarely pictured conflicts among tribes or between Indians and whites. Instead, he depicted pioneering accounts of wilderness enterprise where everyone garnered a livelihood from nature, and cross-cultural exchange was harmonious. Miller’s favorite themes supported a Romantic view of the West as a fabled land where men could be self-reliant, authentic and free.

Departure of the Caravan at Sunrise
Oil and glazes over ink, pencil and watercolor on cream wove paper mounted to gray paperboard. 8 1/16 x 14 1/4 in. Bank of America Collection.

Every morning members of the caravan had to break up and pack the previous night’s encampment before returning to the trail. Under a glowing sky of pastel colors that suggest the sun burning off an early morning mist, Miller reflected on the contrast of cultures he perceived between white and Indian travelers, most notably the eagerness of the former and the more relaxed approach of the latter.

Although Miller employed pencil and ink underdrawing as well as watercolor when he began Departure of the Caravan at Sunrise, he later covered its entire surface with opaque oil. More than any other sheet in the exhibition, it has the feel of a small oil painting.
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