Richard E. Miller

(1875-1943)

Richard E. Miller’'s sumptuous images of young women in interiors are celebrated as some of the finest achievements of American Impressionism. Miller is most often associated with the Giverny Group, a set of American painters living in France in the early twentieth century, who sought inspiration and kinship in the small town near Paris. Although nearly all of the artists in the small town of Giverny knew each other, Miller’'s work is quite distinct from that of his contemporaries. Critics and historians have noted his unique palette for “being ‘in a rather lower tone of color,’ for which he was no doubt deemed ‘the Whistler of the quartet’ – it prompted [artist Guy] Pène du Bois to say of it, ‘soft and yet brilliant, delicate and yet with a semblance of radicalism a lesson in compromise – a delightful lesson.’ The ‘compromise’ referred to is obviously Miller’'s mixing academic and Impressionist painting modes. Miller blends them harmoniously in the creation of a decorative, dreamlike atmosphere. He covered the canvas with small dabs, broad strokes, scraped patches, dry swags and floating flecks of color, many independent of literal description” (M.L. Kane, "A Bright Oasis: The Paintings of Richard E. Miller", New York, 1997, p.33).

In the early 1910s Miller’'s palette lightened, the result of his plein air painting and growing interest in light and color and began to reflect the subtle pastel colors of his surroundings in a manner reminiscent of Renoir. As Miller turned to stronger and more adventurous colors he intensified the reflection of these colors on his figures’ skin, creating a highly artificial, decorative surface while maintaining traditional figuration. They are examples of the artist’'s artistic “license to use the colors in a highly subjective manner dictated by decorative pictorial considerations” ("A Bright Oasis: The Paintings of Richard E. Miller", p.36).

While the Impressionist works of Miller and Frederick Frieseke are closely associated, Miller had a more gradual conversion to the French style than did his colleague. Miller’'s mode of “Decorative Impressionism” evidences “a conscious concern for patterning and an emphasis on the two-dimensional surface that went beyond traditional Impressionism.

Like Frieseke, Miller’'s preferred subject matter was consistently the female figure, nude or clothed, most often placed in an intimate, luxurious interior. Even when Miller’s boudoir or landscape backgrounds are enlivened with voluptuous color and loose brushwork, his treatment of the figure remains firm and classically drawn” ("Musée d’Art Américain Giverny, Lasting Impressions: American Painters in France", Chicago, Illinois, 1992, p.195).