Southold Historical Society
P.O. Box 1, Southold, NY 11971
Society Publishes Book on Long Island Artist Charles Henry Miller
SOUTHOLD, N.Y. The Southold Historical Society is pleased to announce the publication of a new book on the life and career of Long Island artist Charles Henry Miller (1842-1922). The first detailed biography of the artist, the book contains nearly 200 images documenting the life of the artist. “We are simply delighted to be able to release this new publication on Miller,” stated Geoffrey K. Fleming, Director of the Society, “it was long overdue for an artist of his importance,” he continued. The book was co-authored by Fleming and Ruth Ann Bramson, the great-grand-daughter of the artist.
During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Queens County was still a collection of farming and fishing villages that dotted the rolling plains and inlets of the Island, with the occasional sign of industry – usually in the form of a mill – thrown in. It was here that the Long Island painter Charles Henry Miller called home, and where he did his best to record the quickly vanishing landscapes that to him best represented the spirit of his beloved Long Island.
Though Miller would become the greatest advocate for Long Island, he was not a native. He was born in Manhattan in 1842, the son of the well-known builder and real estate developer Jacob Miller and his wife, Jane Taylor. While his mother was interested in supporting her son’s early interest in art, Miller’s father wanted him to become a doctor or lawyer. Following his graduation from the Mt. Washington Collegiate Institute he enrolled in the newly established New York Homeopathic Medical College, graduating in 1863. Though a doctor, he almost never practiced, instead focusing on his art.
Miller decided he needed a formal arts education and finally settled in Munich to study at the Bavarian Royal Academy. He enrolled as a pupil in the Bavarian Royal Academy, established at that time in an old Jesuit convent near the Rathaus. Since Miller’s interest was primarily in landscape painting, he chose Adolph Heinrich Lier (1826-1882) as his master and spent three years in his studio. Noted American painter and historian Eliot Clark wrote that Miller was among the very first American artists to study in Munich.
In 1870 Miller returned to New York City. From this point forward he quickly became a critically acclaimed artist, becoming an associate of the National Academy in 1873 at the age of thirty-one and becoming a full academician in 1875 at the age of thirty-three. As his career progressed, Miller won a number of prizes, including gold medals at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia (1876); the Massachusetts Charitable Mechanic Association (1878); and the World’s Industrial & Cotton Centennial Exposition (1885). He was a founder, along with William Merritt Chase, of the Art Club of New York and was also a founder of the New York Etching Club. In 1885 he codified his beliefs in a book called The Philosophy of Art in America, in which he promoted the establishment of a centralized national arts agency and the abolition of the art tariff.
Miller’s greatest contributions to the art world were twofold. The first was his endless promotion of Long Island to his fellow artists as a superb place to maintain a studio and to paint. From his home, Queenslawn, he encouraged many American artists to come to work, and to love, the shores of Long Island. Early in Miller’s career it was the essayist, poet, literary critic, and travel writer, Bayard Taylor (1825-1878), who is credited with having characterized him as the “artistic discoverer of the Little Continent of Long Island.”
His second contribution was his interest in documenting the changing nature of Long Island for future generations. He came to see Long Island as picturesque, offering landscape painters as much scenery as that of any other part of America or Europe. At a time when urbanization was creeping, and then rushing, eastward from New York City, Charles Henry Miller set about capturing the quiet ponds, farmhouses, haystacks, and moss covered mills of a rural Long Island, before they disappeared forever. In his later years, as Queens and western Nassau County were relentlessly urbanized, Miller traveled eastward to Long Island’s North Fork to find the rural scenes to which he was so strongly drawn. Today, he is remembered both as an artist and historian in paint who preserved precious images of a bucolic Long Island, now long gone.
The book, which numbers 200 pages, includes an exhaustive biography, dozens of color and black & white images, and an extensive bibliography. Of particular note is the inclusion of a number of sketchbook images that have never been published before in their own special section. “His sketches cover nearly every location and activity on Long Island during the late 19th and early 20th centuries,” noted Fleming.
The book is available at the Southold Historical Society, other book stores, and can also be purchased on-line at Amazon.com. For images relating to this release, or further information on the Society, please call (631) 765-5500 or visit us online at: www.southoldhistoricalsociety.org.