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"Carl's Mill, Tarrytown, New York" (1881) | William Rickarby Miller

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William Rickarby Miller (American, 1818-1893)
Oil on artist panel | Signed lower right "W. R. Miller 1881"
Item # 106HIP10Q 

Capturing the landmark from Washington Irving's famous "Sleepy Hollow" along the Pocantico River in Tarrytown, New York, William Rickarby Miller first depicted Carl's Mill in 1851. That watercolor, gouche and graphite example is held in the permanent collection of the New York Historical Society (acc. no. 1951.417), where they note that in 1958 a painting by Miller re-rendering this painting was held in the collection of the Old Print Shop in New York, that work signed and dated 1883 and executed on academy board measuring 9 1/2" x 7 1/2". The present example is similar to the one described by the Society, though two years earlier and slightly larger. Similarly, in the 01 May 2000 sale at Mystic Fine Arts, Ltd, Mystic, Connecticut, lot number 175a captures a close up view of the same scene featuring Carl's Mill with emphasis on the action of the wheel (portion of catalogue included with painting documents).

A moment frozen in time, this exquisite painting captures an iconic mill long since vanished from time and ruin. Typical of Miller's work, it is unusually intricate with vivid colors and minute detail; the cool blue waters tumble off of the water wheel and over the worn rocks, a small footbridge in the distance allowing hikers safe passage while the waterfall flows in the distance. The high-chroma palette and wonderful use of light and shadows is particularly effective in the foliage and against the mill where the interplay is complex and the viewer can almost feel the shadows moving in the breeze.

Executed on artist panel, the reverse retains the original artist supply label from Winsor & Newton. It was formerly in the collection of the Godwin Gallery with a label affixed to the backing board verso along with the sale invoice to its prior owner in 1998 and various paperwork relating to the painting. It is housed in an early giltwood frame.

William Rickarby Miller was born in 1818 to his father, the British painter Joseph Miller in Staindrop, County Durham, England. After training under his father and studying further in London, Miller immigrated to the United States in 1844 along with his sister and two brothers. By 1847 he was living in New York City, where he received commissions for numerous watercolor paintings by the American Art Union. He carved out a niche doing portraiture and illustration work for magazines and newspapers, such as Gleason's Pictorial Drawing-Room Companion as well as Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper.

Miller's real passion was for landscape painting and he pursued this actively with plein-air sketching trips throughout the Hudson River Valley; the earliest such documented landscape is a scene he produced of mountains in Buffalo, New York in 1845, the same year he began to exhibit at the National Academy of Design. He was not a member of the Hudson River Valley school and his style was definitively removed from that school of painting, rejecting the sweeping drama of the romantic landscape for more intimate detailed compositions. Nonetheless, the body of his work serves as a fine historical record of the landscapes and landmarks of this visually stunning territory.

Beyond his landscapes, he executed a number of cityscapes and architectural subjects, marine scenes, some genre work and the most exquisite still-life paintings of fruit. His still-life paintings, in particular his studies of peaches and apples, are highly sought-after and well-represented in numerous museum collections.

During the 1870s, Miller made plans for a book called A Thousand Gems of American Landscapes and worked towards that goal with extensive sketches and preliminary drawings; while the book was never completed, these formed the backbone for much of the work he would complete in the 1880s. Much of this preliminary material is preserved by the New York Historical Society.

Miller was a member of the Brooklyn Art Association and he exhibited there regularly; additionally he exhibited work at the National Academy of Design from 1861 through 1876, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, the American Art Union and the Woodstock Art Association.

The end of Miller's life was somewhat tragic. Having separated from his wife and children in 1867, he led a mostly solitary life with much of his time devoted to work, travel and sketching scenes throughout the rural United States. It is believed that he died on one such sketching trip during the month of July in 1893.

Museum Holdings:

  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • The Smithsonian American Art Museum
  • National Gallery of Art
  • Brooklyn Museum of Art
  • Princeton University Art Museum
  • New York Historical Society [over 200 pieces of Miller's art as well as his diary]
  • Georgia Museum of Art
  • Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

Measurements: 12" H x 9 1/2" W [panel]; 15 1/4" H x 12 3/4" W [frame]

Condition Report:
Bright and clean, in excellent overall condition. Small loss to the edge of the giltwood frame (we can have the frame restored upon request; contact us for a quote). Under UV showing one spot of inpainting upper left corner of the sky and a few specks of touch up in the lower half.