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A Shoshonee [sic] Indian Smoking
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A Shoshonee [sic] Indian Smoking

Description Exhibitions Provenance Inscription Credit
Description Extracts from Alfred Jacob Miller’s original text, which accompanied his images of Native Americans, are included below for reference. These words, which shaped how Miller’s contemporaries viewed the watercolors, reveal the racism and sexism embedded in 19th-century exploration and colonization of the western part of what is today the United States. "It is only in savage life that real and absolute liberty exists. This man bears about the appearance of it. We can see at a glance that he is not troubled with taxes,-by the same token, we could almost affirm that he has left no Mrs. Caudle in his lodge to give him a "bit of her mind" on his return home. A pipe, the great solace of his leisure hours, is lighted and he is exhaling the smoke in volumes from his mouth and nostrils alternately, with a thorough enjoyment of its aroma. The great difficulty is that he has too much freedome for his own good.. It causes him to be proud, overbearing, and oppressive. Eventually he carries measures with such a high hand and becomes so intolerably tyranical that it is found essential to knock him on the head. This he comrehends better than a long harangue, and may be calle the Agumentum baculinum; in fact it is resoning to him as plain as a pike-staff. No successful bully has yet existed, who, sooneror late, has not bet his fate from one who is still more powerful, and as Corporal Nym would say, 'That is the moral of it.'" A.J. Miller, extracted from "The West of Alfred Jacob Miller" (1837). In July 1858 William T. Walters commissioned 200 watercolors at twelve dollars apiece from Baltimore born artist Alfred Jacob Miller. These paintings were each accompanied by a descriptive text, and were delivered in installments over the next twenty-one months and ultimately were bound in three albums. Transcriptions of field-sketches drawn during the 1837 expedition that Miller had undertaken to the annual fur-trader's rendezvous in the Green River Valley (in what is now western Wyoming), these watercolors are a unique record of the closing years of the western fur trade.
  • Alfred Jacob Miller and the Western Indians. The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore. 2006.
Provenance William T. Walters, Baltimore, 1858-1860, by commission; Henry Walters, Baltimore, 1894, by inheritance; Walters Art Museum, 1931, by bequest.
Inscriptions [Signature] A. J. Miller; [Number] 70
Credit Commissioned by William T. Walters, 1858-1860

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watercolor heightened with white on paper
(Painting & Drawing)
Accession Number
H: 11 5/16 x W: 9 7/8 in. (28.7 x 25.1 cm)
  • USA (Place of Origin)
Location Within Museum
Not On View


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