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