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.