This sketch may be one Miller completed in the field. Like other images almost certainly done in the field, such as A Rocky Mountain Trapper, Bill Burroughs, CR# 54, it is painted in a simple pen and ink with sepia wash. The subject of three trappers hunting a distant herd of bison is unpretentious, non-narrative, and seemingly anecdotal, rather than contrived. The economy with which Miller renders the landscape is also characteristic of his work in the 1830s. Blades of grass and reeds are represented with only one or two long strokes, while the water, mountains, and sky are formed with broad swaths of pale wash. The figures, however, are carefully constructed from subtle modulations in the sepia pigment, with fringed buckskin, hunting equipment, and other details articulated with fine pen lines.
Perhaps because Miller observed or composed so many other, more-dramatic hunting scenes, this composition was not repeated for Stewart, Walters, or Brown, and appears to be unique in his oeuvre. The freshness of its conception and execution, however, make it among Miller’s finest watercolors.
LR: Loading on horseback/Buffalo swimming the Platte
The artist; [?]; William R. Coe, Oyster Bay, MD; present owner by gift