Alfred Jacob Miller (American, 1810–1874),
oil on canvas, 66 x 94 ½ in.; 167.64 x 240.03 cm
Museum purchase, 1963.611
In 1837 William Drummond Stewart (Scottish, 1795–1871) asked Miller to
accompany him to the Rocky Mountains and record their adventures at the
annual fur trading fair known as the rendezvous. Buffalo hunts were high points of the journey for both men. Miller described a “surround” (a Plains Indian method of hunting):
On reaching a proper distance, a signal is given and they all start
at once with frightful yells, and commence racing around the herd,
drawing their circle closer and closer, until the whole body is huddled
together in confusion. Now they begin firing, and as this throws them
into a headlong panic and furious rage, each man selects his animal.
Miller made his pictures in the field with pencil, ink, and watercolors.
In his Baltimore studio, he translated many of these into oil paintings
for Stewart and, later, for other patrons fascinated by the West. This
particular picture is one that Miller executed specifically for Murthly
Castle, Stewart’s ancestral home in Scotland. The large size and the
durable medium of oil on canvas were undoubtedly dictated by its
intended display there.