Alfred Jacob Miller (1810 - 1874)

Beating a Retreat
Watercolor & gouache
8" x 12" 
Signed lower left: A Miller
An early Thomas Nygard Gallery label verso
Framed to 19" x 23" 

EX: Bill and Marilyn Lenox Collection.

Lot 179, Brian Lebel's Old West Auction - June 10, 2017, Fort Worth.
Sold $141,600.

Note: Title plate on frame incorrectly identifies this painting as 384C. Though clearly a version of catalog number 384, the “C” painting is a watercolor held in the collection of the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, MD (Miller’s birthplace).

Alfred Jacob Miller (1810 – 1874)
“In the early part of the Nineteenth Century, fur traders, Indians, pioneers, and adventurers who journeyed west of the Mississippi experienced a raw and rugged world now mostly forgotten. We are fortunate, however, that those experiences were captured vividly on canvas by the American artist Alfred Jacob Miller, who ventured west to the American Rocky Mountains in 1837. Miller painted what he saw on that trip, and his firsthand works provide a window into a life and time long gone but essential to the very nature of what it is to be American.” -- Excerpted from

Although not always famous, Alfred Jacob Miller is now heralded as one of the finest painters of the far American West. In 1837, Miller was commissioned by Captain William Drummond Stewart, an eccentric adventurer and former British military officer, to accompany Stewart as an art recorder on a trip to the American Fur Company Rendezvous near the Wind River Mountains. Miller’s sketches on this trip became the studies for many dozens of future oil and watercolor paintings, most of them commissions. Miller’s commissions were in the form of new works based on his existing studies, and a result, there are numerous Miller paintings, in both oil and watercolor, with similar subject matter and similar or identical names.

This painting is known alternately as, “Beating a Retreat”, “War Ground”, or “Indians Beating a
Retreat”. There appear to be five other known color versions of the work in museum collections, and one version recorded in Miller’s record book that remains unlocated, but is noted as “oval.” When compared with the images available of the five museum held works, we feel this watercolor version most closely resembles the two oil paintings held by the Museum of Fine Art in Boston, and the Library and Archives of Canada, Ottawa, painted between 1863 and 1865. 

In Miller’s notes that accompany his original studies, he writes of the image of “Beating a

"Although this Sioux Indian has an immense range of his own to hunt over, he is not content with it, and we find him here on the grounds of the Blackfeet. The latter from a bluff have discovered the marauder, and are discharging their arrows at him and in a rage because they are not nearer to secure his scalp.”