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Five Chromolithographs of Native Americans by Alfred Jacob Miller

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422.     [MILLER, Alfred Jacob (artist)]. WEBBER, C[harles] W[ilkins]. Wild Scenes and Song-Birds. By C.W. Webber… With Twenty Illustrations, Printed in Colors from Drawings by Mrs. C.W. Webber and Alfred J. Miller. New York: Riker, Thorne and Company, No. 129 Fulton Street, 1855. [i-v] vi-x, [2], [1] 2-347 [1, blank] pp. (pp. 7-10 misnumbered), 20 vividly colored chromolithograph plates (including frontispiece), some with gesso highlights (15 ornithological plates after the art work of Mrs. Webber and 5 scenes of Native American life based on Alfred Jacob Miller’s original art work, all lithographed by the Rosenthal firm in Philadelphia). 8vo (25 x 27.5 cm), original pictorial green cloth, spine gilt decorated, both covers gilt-stamped with illustration of Southern Mocking Bird, which appears in book opposite p. 66. Spine and covers laid down on early olive green cloth, cloth soiled and rubbed, upper hinge cracked, text block split at pp. 144-145, text moderately browned, plates fine save for occasional light browning or foxing in blank margins.

Plate list of Miller’s chromolithographs, each measuring approximately 13.2 x 19 cm (image, imprint, and title):

Indian Caressing His Horse [below image] Miller pinx. | L.N. Rosenthal’s Cromo Lith. Phila. This plate with its handsome white steed shows how Delacroix influenced Miller’s depiction of horses. Opposite p. 34. Tyler, Alfred Jacob Miller, p. 446 (#906).

Encampment of Indians [below image] Miller pinx. | L.N. Rosenthal’s Cromo Lith. Phila. Peaceful family scene set in a majestic mountain landscape with tepees. Opposite p. 144. Tyler, Alfred Jacob Miller, p. 446 (#907).

Toilet of the Indian Girls [below image] Miller pinx. | L.N. Rosenthal’s Cromo Lith. Phila. Two beautiful young maidens bathing in a still mountain lake, one of them washing her hair, tepees in background. Opposite p. 144. Tyler, Alfred Jacob Miller, p. 446 (#908).

Antelope Chase [below image] la. A single warrior on horseback chases a herd of antelope. Opposite p. 224. Tyler, Alfred Jacob Miller, p. 446 (#909).

Indian Girl Swinging [below image] Miller pinx. | L.N. Rosenthal’s Cromo Lith. Phila. Playful moment with two maidens watching a ravishingly beautiful bare-breasted maiden swinging from tree limb, tepees in background. Opposite p. 255. Tyler, Alfred Jacob Miller, p. 446 (#910).

     First edition, early issue. According to Phillips (American Sporting Books, p. 398), the work was first published by Putnam in 1853 or 1854 at New York and reissued several times. In the present issue, the plate of Indian Girl Swinging shows her bare-breasted. “In the first edition, she appears, as in the Miller watercolor, bare-breasted. In at least some of the later printings, she has been provided with a blouse, probably in the name of nineteenth-century modesty” (Ron Tyler, editor, Alfred Jacob Miller: Artist on the Oregon Trail, Amon Carter Museum, 1982, p. 449). Bennett, American Nineteenth-Century Color Plate Books, p. 111. Henderson, Early American Sport, p. 251. Peters, America on Stone, pp. 343-346 (discussion of Rosenthal lithograph establishment and mention of their early work, including this title): “Among the first true chromos of importance and the first set of chromo book illustrations…. Some of their early work is of very great technical interest and extremely full of detail…. Some [of their works] are quite rife with the true American spirit of lithography.”

     The five chromolithograph plates of Native Americans scenes by Alfred Jacob Miller are the most important feature of this book. Miller (1810-1874), early American artist in the Rockies, studied art with Thomas Sully in his hometown of Baltimore and continued his artistic training in Paris at the École des Beaux-Arts, where he was drawn to painting from life. He studied the works of the old masters at the Louvre (Rembrandt, Jacob Ruysdael, Sir Joshua Reynolds, et al.). In Rome he was admitted to the English Life School and preferred working from live models. He was highly influenced by his contemporaries Eugène Delacroix, William Turner, the French Romantics, Horace Vernet, et al. He returned to Baltimore in the 1830s but soon departed for New Orleans and set up a studio, where, in a life-changing moment, Captain William Drummond Stewart happened into his studio and invited him to join his expedition to the Rocky Mountains as an artist. See: Thrapp (Encyclopedia of Frontier Biography, II, pp. 986-987). Goetzmann & Goetzmann (The West of the Imagination, New York & London: W.W. Norton, 1986, pp. 58-68):

The American people were fascinated by the newly acquired western territories, but their visions and dreams of this vast dominion had been nurtured almost entirely by the printed word. Visual images were in demand. Alfred Jacob Miller was one of the first of the artist-explorers to meet this need. His sketches, gathered when he was on the trail, provided a rich heritage for his own and future generations…. Miller soon began an odyssey to make him the first artist to penetrate deep into the Rockies…. Unlike Seymour and Bodmer, Miller had little interest in the reportorial approach. He found his reward in rendering romantic scenes that became souvenirs of the journey for his patron. Neither artist nor client was much concerned with the documentation of fact; their interest lay rather in preserving the spirit of far-western life and its spectacular wild scenery. (Tyler, Alfred Jacob Miller, pp. 32-33).

     Webber states that four of Alfred Jacob Miller’s plates are of “scenes in the camp of the Delawares,” although they are based on the artist’s sketches of the Snake Indians. The author is considered the first fiction writer of importance to use Texas as his theme. His books were bestsellers, and he was admired by Edgar Allen Poe (Sanford E. Marovitz “Poe’s Reception of C.W. Webber’s Gothic Western, ‘Jack Long; or, The Shot in the Eye’” from Poe Studies, IV:1, June 1971, pp. 11-13). Webber (1819-1856 had a varied career, at one time serving in the Texas Rangers, which provided material for many of his novels. He was killed on Walker’s expedition to Nicaragua. See Handbook of Texas Online.

     Peter C. Marzio discusses the lithographic firm of L.N. Rosenthal (Chromolithography 1840-1900: The Democratic Art, Pictures for a 19th-Century America, Boston & Fort Worth: David R. Godine and Amon Carter Museum of Western Art, 1979, pp. 34-35):

The Rosenthal brothers, the fourth of the Philadelphia lithographic quartet, arrived in town about 1850. Russian immigrants with a sophisticated skill in chromolithography, they stepped right into the battles for business being waged by P.S. Duval, Thomas Sinclair, and Wagner and McGuigan. Before long their works began appearing in books and on fences and walls through Philadelphia. Their rate of growth was rapid.

Max Rosenthal was the principal lithographic artist. He had studied lithography, engraving, and painting under an Alsatian, Martin Thurwanger, from whom he may have heard of the opportunities in Philadelphia…. Rosenthal procured the plates for city views, pictures of locomotives, advertisements of every description, and book illustrations. His earliest works are lean and somewhat disappointing compared with Duval’s and Sinclair’s. For example, in about 1852 L.N. Rosenthal produced chromos for C.W. Webber’s The Hunter-Naturalist: copied from drawings by Alfred Jacob Miller, Max Rosenthal’s chromos were described by Webber as a “first experiment in a novel field,” and, while praising them as “unparalleled specimens of the art of printing in colors upon stone,” the author admitted that they left “much to anticipate.” Nevertheless, Webber saw the involvement in the democratic art of this recent immigrant as part of a peculiarly American mission: “the art of printing in colors, which is yet in embryo in Europe, has been left for us to develope [sic] in this country.”

     Finally, little is known of the artist of the birds, the wife of Charles Wilkin Webber, other than the author met his wife in New York, and she was “a lady who is remembered as a woman of rare mental endowments and gifted as an artist” (Charles M. Meacham, History of Christian County Kentucky , Evansville, 1974, Chapter 14). For further information, consult web site.


Sold. Hammer: $750.00; Price Realized: $900.00

Auction 22 Abstracts

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