Women in a sunlit landscape framed by a large, vividly patterned Japanese parasol, exemplify Miller's expressionist technique.
Miller was one of the American Impressionists working in the French countryside known as the Giverny Group.
Indianapolis Museum of Art: Highlights of the Collection (2005)
Richard E. Miller worked with the Giverny Group, a circle of American Impressionist painters who lived in the French countryside near the village of Giverny from 1898 to 1914. Part of their attraction to the area was the presence of Claude Monet, one of the founders of French Impressionism. The American artists favored images of women in vibrant, sun-filled landscapes, surrounded by flowers and foliage. An emphasis on pattern and bold contrasts exemplifies their decorative approach.
Miller's Giverny paintings often feature women in gardens or in rooms that open to a garden. A strong sense of design and vibrant palette were hallmarks of his style. Miller also was strongly influenced by the Japanese aesthetic-popular in France in the late 1800s and early 1900s-and his studio was filled with kimonos, parasols, fans, and ceramics with Asian motifs. Afternoon Tea, with its figures framed within a vividly patterned Japanese parasol, exemplifies the artist's Impressionist technique.
Louis Ritman and Frederick Carl Frieseke were other Giverny Group artists whose works are in the IMA's collection. World War I drove many of the artists away from Giverny; Miller returned to the United States in 1914.
Atmosphere and color are never permanent; paint won't remain the same color forever. But design will stay.
-Richard E. Miller, 1932
Richard E. Miller was born in St. Louis, Missouri, and studied at the St. Louis School of Fine Arts, the Académie Julian, and James Abbott McNeill Whistler’s Academy Carmen in Paris. In Paris, Miller formed a close friendship with fellow American Impressionist Frederick Frieseke, in whose Giverny garden Miller painted Afternoon Tea. Two similar versions of this scene were painted by Frieseke and Karl Buehl, also part of the Giverny Group, and Miller’s is the most dynamic of the three paintings.
In this canvas, Miller used brilliant color and slashing, swirling brushstrokes, which are particularly evident in the parasol, a focal point of the work. It also gave the artist the opportunity to display his signature brand of Impressionism: intermingling textures, patterns and colors to create a vibrant display that unifies the composition. Afternoon Tea is one of Miller’s most notable works.
Kane, Marie Louise. A Bright Oasis: The Paintings of Richard E. Miller. New York, Jordan-Volpe Gallery, 1997.
Probably Mr. O.J. Wardwell;
C.L. Baldwin Esquire;
sold through (New York American Art Association "Private Collection of Important American Paintings formed by C.L. Baldwin" 22 April 1926);
by descent in the family to owner in Connecticut;
(Christie's, New York, New York, 4 December 1997);
purchased by the Indianapolis Museum of Art and Jane and Andrew Paine, Indianapolis, Indiana;
given to the Indianapolis Museum of Art, in 2015 (1997.139).