On the Harlem River

William Rickarby Miller (American, 1818-1893)1855

The Cleveland Museum of Art

The Cleveland Museum of Art
Cleveland, United States

When William Rickarby Miller arrived in America from England in 1845, he found watercolor painting in a dismal state—“a branch of Painting scarcely at all cultivated here.” Nonetheless, Miller made his living producing watercolors for print publications, depicting picturesque American woodlands with the staid British technique of his training. In <em>On the Harlem</em> <em>River, </em>Miller overlays delicate graphite line work with tints of luminous watercolor and dense gouache, capturing the color and light effects of a crisp autumn day. His meticulous transcription of individual leaves, branches, and stones displays his technical finesse, as well as his interest in documenting the particularities of nature. He shared this preoccupation with the Hudson River School, a mid-century American landscape painting movement whose members used detailed, on-site drawings of natural subjects as aids in making oil paintings. Miller’s great innovation was to marry the Hudson River manner to the medium of watercolor, anticipating the landscapes of American watercolorists in the decades to follow.

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  • Title: On the Harlem River
  • Creator: William Rickarby Miller (American, 1818-1893)
  • Date Created: 1855
  • Physical Dimensions: Sheet: 37.8 x 51.4 cm (14 7/8 x 20 1/4 in.)
  • Provenance: Private Collection, New Jersey., (Mary Lublin Fine Arts, New York, NY), The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH.
  • Type: Drawing
  • Rights: CC0
  • External Link: https://clevelandart.org/art/1997.6
  • Medium: watercolor with gouache, over graphite, framing lines in graphite
  • Inscriptions: signed, lower right, in brown ink: W. R. Miller. Morrisania N Y. Octr 31t. 1855., in brown ink, lower center: On the Harlem River / nr the High Bridge. Westchester CoY., in graphite in lower left above framing line: 41, in graphite, mount 26 x 20 for Folio 2., upper center: View on the Harlem River. 19 x 13., in graphite, lower left: Tree not Yellow enough to [Sun?], in black ballpoint pen, lower right: 2 x 2_ [regu?] glass '_ cracked Gold [cream?] mat
  • Fun Fact: The tall trees at the center of Miller’s composition appear to be American sycamores, deciduous trees with creamy bark and spiky round fruit that grow in moist soil near streams and riverbanks.
  • Department: Drawings
  • Culture: America, 19th century
  • Credit Line: Leonard C. Hanna, Jr. Fund
  • Collection: DR - American 19th Century
  • Accession Number: 1997.6

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