Sunday, 8 February 2015

The Surround

This landscape was painted by American painter Alfred Jacob Miller in 1837, commissioned by William Drummond Stewart, a Scotsman, after they visited the annual fir trading fair. The piece was painted at a later date, in Miller's Balitmore studio, and returned to Scotland with Stewart for display in Murthly Castle. The scene depicted in the painting is a "surround", an Indian buffalo hunting method.

The people in the painting are mostly facing west - identified by the rising sun - which illustrates the progress west. Even the tree on the left of the frame is pointing west, suggesting the naturalness of the expansion west. The mountains in the background appear small, illustrating the vastness of the plains. The people are difficult to recognise as Indians, suggesting that Miller may have painted them ambiguously intentionally, so as to erase the Indian identity. Furthermore, the Indians are all on horses, which were an import from Europe, suggesting that the lives of the Indians have been improved by the introduction of European culture.

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