In this pencil and wash sketch executed for Sir William Drummond Stewart, Miller portrays Stewart, Antoine, and their party arranged in a circle under a lean-to eating dinner. With an economy of strokes, the artist uses broad areas of wash and a few strategic pencil marks to suggest the craggy contours of the tree and the shrubs surrounding the party. The Indian figures in the background are only roughly sketched in, while those at the far side of the circle are given more specific poses and dress. The highest level of detail is reserved for Antoine, Stewart, and a third Metis man, possibly Pierre, who is portrayed elsewhere wearing a broad-brimmed, low-crowned hat. Miller articulates Stewart and Antoine’s distinctive features, hair style, and dress with relatively little variety in media or tone.
The large size of the sheet would suggest this is a studio work. However, the figure of the Indian boy at lower right appears slightly too large relative to the figure of the man behind him who pours drinks. With his academic pose and muscular physique, the boy is oddly out of place and out of scale, and may represent a compositional error that Miller attempted to reconcile with an otherwise accomplished image. If so, the pentimento raises the possibility that this is an image begun in the field and finished later in the studio.
UL: 9. UC: an Early Dinner Party. / near Larrimer’s Fork.
The artist; Sir William Drummond Stewart, 1839; Frank Nichols, 1871; Bonamy Mansell Power; willed to Edward Power, 1900; by descent to Major G.H. Power, Great Yarmouth England; [Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York, NY, 1966]; Mrs. Tweet Kimball; [Kennedy Galleries, New York, NY, 1967]; present owner