Standing Nude, n.d.
Richard Edward Miller (American, 1875–1943)
Oil on board, 36 x 34 in. Crocker Art Museum, Melza and Ted Barr Collection, 2010.2.3.

Richard Miller specialized in painting women of leisure in opulent, sunlit interiors. The pairing was not only an aesthetic conceit, but a social one. At the height of Miller's career, it was generally felt that women had a duty to help create the positive moral atmosphere in the home through beautiful and carefully considered choices of furnishings and dress. Miller himself stated that “art’s mission is not literary, the telling of a story, but decorative, the conveying of a pleasant optical sensation.”(1)

Miller’s reputation for such subjects began in France, where he lived from 1898 to 1914. He was born in St. Louis, Missouri, studied at the St. Louis School of Fine Arts from 1893 to 1897, and then worked as an illustrator. He earned a scholarship to go to Paris in 1898, training at the Académie Julian under Jean-Paul Laurens and Jean-Joseph Benjamin-Constant. In 1901, he began teaching at the Académie Colarossi.

Although his earlier paintings were more subdued, his association with French Impressionists and American artists working in Giverny, including Frederick Frieseke, Guy Rose, and Lawton Parker — known as the Giverny Group — prompted him to brighten his palette. His reputation was solidified by the gold medals he won at the Paris Salons of 1901 and 1904, and the fact that he was made a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor.

At the outset of World War I, Miller returned to the United States. He lived briefly in New York City and then St. Louis before moving to Pasadena, California, in 1916 to teach at the Stickney Memorial School of Art. In the year he was there, he became a member of the California Art Club and helped disseminate the tenets of Impressionism. Returning East, he settled in Provincetown, Massachusetts, where he became a prominent figure in the local artists’ colony.

1. Michael David Zellman, ed., American Art Analog (New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1986), 764.

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