Samuel Miller

 

Miller produced some of the most visually arresting images of children in the folk art genre. Very few facts about his life have been ascertained, although Miller’s deathcertificate indicates that he was born to Robert and Ann Miller of Boston, and died on October 18, 1853 of heart disease. An inscription on Miller’s portrait of Emily Moulton places the artist’s studio or home at the corner of Pearl and Bartlett Streets in Charlestown, Massachusetts, in 1852. City directories also locate him onBartlett Street during this period. Approximately seventeen portraits are attributed to Miller, all appearing to date from the 1840s and early 1850s and all oils oncanvas. These include a group of five works in the collection of the New York State Historical Association in Cooperstown, New York. Fourteen of his likenesses, including Picking Flowers,
an oil on canvas attributed to Miller and dated circa 1845, depict children. Miller’s lively and decorative style includes flat, delineatedfigures often in frontal poses, the use of bold, local color, meticulously rendered costume details, and the frequent inclusion of pets, flowers, and trees. The young girlwho is the subject of Picking Flowers seems to be of a type that Miller typically represented with full cheeks, a round face, and prominent ears. Although the size of the canvas is modest, the figure appears monumental, nearly filling the frame and skewing the already awkward sense of perspective indicated by a schematic rendering of a dirt path, a green expanse of grass, and a house on a riverbank in the distance.