Acquiring the West

Most of Miller’s work was commissioned by businessmen who saw in his images their idea of the West as an American symbol and the premier area for commercial expansion. Miller’s small-scaled art was created for private viewing. Single sheets were gathered in book-like albums, which encouraged a sense of shared experience. Miller used many of the works in the exhibition as aids in creating final compositions for albums and to attract patrons.

Visit to an Indian Camp on the Border of a Lake
Watercolor, gouache, ink, pencil and glazes on thin tissue lined with Japanese paper. 8 1/16 x 12 3/16 in. Bank of America Collection.

This sheet is one of many in which Miller's patron William Drummond Stewart is shown at leisure with Indians, indicating his deep interest in Indian domestic life. Stewart felt that Indians shared a status with Scottish aristocrats like himself. If Stewart was a member of the civilized nobility, then Indians represented the “indigenous nobility.” Here, Miller depicted Stewart and the Indian man as equals sharing a pipe, an expression of goodwill.

Miller likely created this image in several stages. Painted on thin tissue, he may have first traced in pencil and ink parts of the scene from a sheet in Stewart’s album. A blue-gray wash over much of the surface, including the inscription, monogram and other drawn lines, indicates the color was added later.
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