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Head of "Matau-Tathonca," "Bull Bear"- an Ogillalah [sic]

Description Conservation 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. "The head of this grim chief almost shadows forth his character,- fierce and impetuous in his passion, he recognized no law but his own will. With Indian craft, he befriended the Whites, knowing that he would gain advantages thereby. In calling his people to counsel he would listen to them-state his own opinion, and follow it.- they would not dare to question his imperious will. A subsequent traveller to the Rocky Mountains thus described his death. "Numerous Indians were with the Fur Co's men,- 'Mantau-Tathonca' was also there with a few of his people. As he lay in his lodge, a fray arose between his adherents and the kinsman of his enemy. The war-whoop was raised, bullets and arrows began to fly, and the camp was in confusion. The chief sprang up, and in a fury from the lodge shouted to the combatants on both sides to cease. Instantly (for the attack was preconcerted) came the reports of two or three guns, and the twanging of a dozen bows,- and the savage hero, mortally wounded, pitched forward headlong to the ground. The tumult became general, and was not quelled until several had fallen on both sides." 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.
Date Description Narrative
5/03/1978Treatmentcleaned; rehoused
  • People of the Plains, 1820-1850. University of Minnesota, University Art Gallery, Minneapolis. 1978.
  • Alfred Jacob Miller: Maryland and the West. The Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore; Washington College, Chestertown; Frostburg State University, Frostburg; Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington, Rockville. 1988.
Provenance William T. Walters, Baltimore, 1858-1860, by commission; Henry Walters, Baltimore, 1894, by inheritance; Walters Art Museum, 1931, by bequest.
Inscriptions [Monogram] Lower left: AJMiller; [Number] 143
Credit Commissioned by William T. Walters, 1858-1860

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watercolor and gouache on paper
(Painting & Drawing)
Accession Number
H: 11 1/4 x W: 8 11/16 in. (28.6 x 22.1 cm)
  • USA (Place of Origin)
Location Within Museum
Not On View


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