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Property from the May Family Collection

Sioux Reconnoitering

Sioux Reconnoitering
inscribed with title (upper right)
watercolor and gouache on paper
7 1/4 x 8 1/2 in. (18.4 x 21.6 cm.)
Executed circa 1837-38.
The artist.
Mrs. Lawrence Carton, Towson, Maryland, great-niece of the above.
William S. Reese, Baltimore, Maryland.
Kennedy Galleries, Inc., New York.
Lawrence Fleischman, New York.
M. Knoedler & Co., Inc., New York.
Dr. Irving Levitt, New York.
M. Knoedler & Co., New York.
Dean Krakel, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
Acquired by the present owner from the above, 1971.
H. Dorra, The American Muse, New York, 1961, p. 63, illustrated.
M.C. Ross, The West of Alfred Jacob Miller, Norman, Oklahoma, 1968.
R. Tyler, Alfred Jacob Miller: Artist on the Oregon Trail, Fort Worth, Texas, p. 321, no. 38.
Washington, D.C., Corcoran Gallery of Art, The American Muse, April 3-May 17, 1959.
Columbia, South Carolina, Columbia Museum of Art, Americana: A Painting Survey of the American Scene from the Collection of the C. Thomas May, Jr. Family Collection, January 29-March 1976, no. 12.
College Station, Texas, Texas A&M University, The American Vision: Paintings from the C. Thomas May, Jr. Family Collection, August 23-September 19, 1982, pp. 10-11, illustrated.
Dallas, Texas, Dallas Historical Society, American Land, American People, September 20-November 14, 1982, no. 172.
Dallas, Texas, Dallas Museum of Art, Visions of the West, September 28-November 30, 1986, no. 66, illustrated.
Huntsville, Alabama, Huntsville Museum of Art; New York, The Lotos Club, The May Family Collection of American Paintings, February 7-May 1, 1988, pp. 42-43, 63, no. 16, illustrated.
Portland, Maine, Portland Museum of Art, April 15-September 30, 1992.

Brought to you by

Tylee Abbott
Tylee Abbott Vice President, Head of American Art

Lot Essay

In June 1837, Alfred Jacob Miller traveled West for the annual fur-trader's rendezvous, departing St. Louis for the Green River in present day Wyoming. During his trip, Miller created over 150 preliminary sketches and watercolors, which he later used to render finished compositions in both watercolor and oil. The subjects of these works were most frequently genre scenes of life in the American West, including depictions of both fur trappers and Native Americans, at leisure and engaged in action, such as in Sioux Reconnoitering.

With its precise detail and vibrant color, Sioux Reconnoitering epitomizes Millers unparalleled ability to capture the spirit of a fleeting American West. “Miller’s paintings were dreamy, timeless, and quintessentially Romantic.” (F. Flavin, “The Adventurer – Artists of the Nineteenth Century and the Image of the American Indian,” Indian Magazine of History, 2002, p. 1) As in the present work, Miller went beyond the documentary focus of peers like George Catlin and Karl Bodmer in his emphasis on narrative and an admiring romanticisation of his subject, resulting in some of the earliest truly artistic renditions of the American West.

A related watercolor is in the collection of the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland.

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