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  Five Exceedingly Rare and Fine Chromolithographs after Alfred Jacob Miller, 1855.  

Miller, Indian Caressing his Horse
"Indian Caressing His Horse" $500. [ Order ]

Miller, Encampment of Indians
"Encampment of Indians" SOLD

Miller, Toilet of the Indian Girls
"Toilet of the Indian Girls" SOLD

Miller, Antelope Chase
"Antelope Chase" SOLD

Miller, Indian Girl Swinging
"Indian Girl Swinging" SOLD

Five Exceedingly Rare and Fine Chromolithographs
after Alfred Jacob Miller

“Among the first true chromos of importance and the first set of chromo book illustrations.”
— Harry T. Peters, America on Stone

Alfred Jacob Miller. Five chromolithographs of Indian life published in C. W. Webber, The Hunter-Naturalist: Wild Scenes and Song-Birds (New York: Riker, Thorne and Company, 1855). Third edition. Image: 4 7/8 x 7 1/2"; full sheet: 6 1/2 x 9 3/4". Imprint l. l.: “Miller pinx.”; l. r.: “L N Rosenthal’s Cromo Lith Phila.” Signed on the stone, l. l.: “M Rosenthal.” Minor surface spotting and soiling. Fine examples of these rare prints, with exquisite bright color.

Baltimore painter Alfred Jacob Miller is today mentioned with George Catlin and Karl Bodmer as one of the three great artists of the nineteenth-century American West. During his lifetime, however, Miller was an almost unknown member of the triumvirate. A notable exception to his unfortunate status occurred when ten of his watercolors were reproduced as book illustrations incorporating the new technology of chromolithography.

Not only was the technique novel, Miller’s images were as well. They were purportedly the first pictures documenting Indian life in the Rocky Mountains. Miller had created the images when in 1837 he accompanied an American Fur Company expedition led by William Drummond Stewart. A retired British Army officer, Stewart hired Miller to paint mementos of the annual rendezvous of the fur traders and trappers in the Wyoming Rockies. Miller also documented the manners and customs of the tribes encountered during the expedition.

As Miller’s patron, Stewart offered to publish the artist’s scenes of Indian life in a portfolio of lithographs—a project that never materialized. The prints were finally made when author and entrepreneur Charles W. Webber approached Miller about using his images as illustrations in two partly autobiographical books that Webber had written. The first book, The Hunter-Naturalist: Romance of Sporting; or, Wild Scenes and Wild Hunters, was published in 1851 and featured five illustrations after Miller’s paintings. These were reproduced by the Philadelphia firm of L. N. Rosenthal using the special, new color technique of chromolithography. Webber wrote enthusiastically about the illustrations “of the Wild Scenes of our own Indian Border life” and hailed the use of chromolithography as the “first experiment in a novel field.”

Webber published the second book in 1853. Titled The Hunter-Naturalist: Wild Scenes and Song-Birds, this book included five more chromolithographs after Miller—offered here. The Rosenthal firm was again engaged, and Webber, in the book’s introduction, particularly praised “the younger brother, M[ax] Rosenthall [sic],” who had copied Miller’s images onto the different stones. Emboldened by his new artistic status, Rosenthal took the liberty of adding his own signature within each picture in a manner suggesting that he was the original artist.

The prints above are exceptional examples of Miller’s superb images of Rocky Mountain Indian life in the 1800s and of the newly emerging technique of chromolithography.

Refs.: Ron Tyler, ed., Alfred Jacob Miller, pp. 447–449; Tyler, ed., Prints of the American West, .57–66, p. 65 (illus.).

Copyright 2003, William R. Talbot