Pursuing the Path of Painted Portraiture  

Pursuing the Path of Painted Portraiture

Blog | September 21, 2015

Richard Edward Miller’s, The Necklace, will be offered at the Fall American and European Art Auction on Friday, September 25 in Chicago. One of James Abbott McNeill Whistler’s pastels will also be offered: Parasol; red note

During the 19th century, while some artists were painting academic portraits, other colleagues were using the most avant-garde approaches. Such can be seen in work of American portraitist, Richard Edward Miller. A native of Saint Louis, Missouri, Miller was first exposed to the work of his cutting-edge European contemporaries on his visit to the Worlds Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. He traveled to Paris, where he found encouragement in the works of the Barbizon masters, such as Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot and fellow ex-pat John Abbott McNeill Whistler.

During the summers of 1912 and 1913, Miller spent time in St. Jean du Doigt, a small coastal town in Brittany, France. Given its stylistic similarity to other paintings from this time, it may be surmised that The Necklace (La Femme au Collier) was painted during one of these trips. Marie Louise Kane writes, “A series of women-in-interiors painted around 1913…are among Miller’s most inventive works. By placing his figures indoors in front of windows overlooking gardens, as he increasingly did, Miller could combine the play of natural light with complex patterns created by man-made objects, like shutters, blinds, wicker chairs, striped and tiered fabrics, and French doors. …Using the same model, costume, setting, accessories and palette, Miller painted three closely related versions of the same theme.”

By the time Miller returned to the United States in 1914, he had defined his own version of American Impressionism. Working with energetic brushstrokes to convey the vibrancy of the atmosphere, Miller succeeded in creating intimate and immediate renderings of his sitters. More familiar than formal, Miller’s portraits allow the viewer an intimate and seemingly unscripted moment with his subjects. Complementing this instantaneously quality is his dynamic color palette, which adds a certain life to his subjects.

James Abbott McNeill Whistler, (American, 1834-1903), Parasol; red note, c. 1884. To be sold Thursday, September 25 in Chicago.

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