Miller, Our Camp, 11.70
Alfred Jacob Miller (1810-1874). Our Camp, ca. 1846-1860. Oil on canvas, 26.375 x 36 inches. Gift of The Coe Foundation. 11.70
Alfred Jacob Miller’s painting, Our Camp, was gifted to the Center by The Coe Foundation along with five other Miller works. Miller was an early artist-explorer and the only artist to depict the fur trade in the West during its heyday, in the 1830s. His work is quite important as a singular pictorial perspective on this short-lived era in American history.
Miller was hired by Scottish nobleman Captain William Drummond Stewart to accompany his expedition to the Rocky Mountain Rendezvous in summer 1837, and then further into the Rockies to hunt during that fall. The Rendezvous was an annual event established by fur trading companies to convene fur trappers ahead of the fall season to distribute supplies. Native Americans also came to trade during this event.
Stewart’s and Miller’s interest was encompassed the landscapes, wildlife, and antics of Euro-American characters, rather than just Native Americans. Miller often included his patron in his paintings. In this camp scene, Stewart is pictured astride his white stallion. His tent is the blue-and-white striped one in the center of the image. The company’s camp is set up in the shadow of the Wind River Mountains beneath a glowing sunset or sunrise, which Miller often included in his paintings.
Miller only went west once but spent the rest of his life depicting scenes from his memories and working up sketches he made on the trail. The painting is one of thirty-three works by Miller in the collection and is a truly unique contribution to western American art history and our regional relevance.