Influences beyond the West

Miller headed West already familiar with historic and contemporary art. Although his trip provided the foundation for his subjects, he combined his knowledge of different techniques, compositional strategies and styles with on-the-trail observations. Miller benefited from stateside training, studied the Old Masters, Romantic art and the British watercolor tradition, and was inspired by albums of images by artist/explorers who preceded him in the West.

Snake Female Reposing
Watercolor, gouache, ink and gum glazes on Whatman drawing board. 6 1/4 x 10 3/8 in. Bank of America Collection.

Snake Female Reposing reflects the European tradition of depicting reclining women posed to enhance their allure. While abroad, Miller would have seen sensual 16th- and 17th-century Renaissance and Baroque renderings of lolling nymphs and goddesses as well as contemporary paintings of exotic odalisques. Such paintings cast women as passive objects for voyeuristic pleasure and possibly inspired the spirit of this sketch.

This sheet lacks underdrawing and extensively features ink and gum glaze. Ink appears beneath and on top of the watercolor and gouache that build up the figure and the canopy that complements her graceful, if anatomically impossible, pose. Glaze adds luster to her hair, deepens her shadow and darkens the soles of her feet.
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