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The Bee Hunter

Alfred Jacob Miller1858-1860

The Walters Art Museum

The Walters Art Museum

"This little industrious harbinger of civilization is fast spreading over the fertile plains of the Far West, and may as well have the credit also of having discovered the 'axiom' that 'a straight line is the shortest distance between two given points,' long before that old fussy fellow Euclid ever dreamed of it. The mode of finding their hives is illustrated in the sketch. A piece of honey comb is secured to the top of a bush, this attracts the wild bees, and when several are buzzing about it, the hunters diligently watch them, and as soon as one is ready to start keeps his eye on him. As he flies direct, the hunter urns with his eyes upward, and never loses sight of him till he reaaches his destination (usually an old hollow tree), axes are now brought into requisition,- the tree felled - split open,- and the hous hold of the poor insects laid bare, filled to overflowing with its sweets, sometimes extending 8 or 10 feet long trunk." A.J. Miller, extracted from "The West of Alfred Jacob Miller" (1837).

In July 1858 William T. Walters commissioned 200 watercolors at twelve dollars apiece from Baltimore born artist Alfred Jacob Miller. These paintings were each accompanied by a descriptive text, and were delivered in installments over the next twenty-one months and ultimately were bound in three albums. Transcriptions of field-sketches drawn during the 1837 expedition that Miller had undertaken to the annual fur-trader's rendezvous in the Green River Valley (in what is now western Wyoming), these watercolors are a unique record of the closing years of the western fur trade.

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