Oscar Miller painting on sale at Ruby Lane website.
Due to Sarah Eddy’s influence, Bristol Ferry was a cultural and intellectual center. It was also a transportation center that made it easy to take the Fall River Line to New York, ferry to Bristol or take a train to Fall River and north. It was a perfect place for Oscar Miller and other artists to call home.
Oscar Miller was an artist with a national reputation. He created over 1500 works. Miller exhibited painting titled “Girl Reading” at the 1904 World’s Fair. He painted marine seascapes, salon paintings, genre studies, and figure studies. Miller had many studios – New York and Paris as well as Portsmouth. His Portsmouth studio was in a barn on Bristol Ferry Road and it still exists today.
Sarah Eddy brought Oscar out in 1896 to “paint the spring.” Oscar would dress his subjects in costumes – as did Sarah Eddy and other artists of their day. Eddy taught him photography and his photography was just as good as his painting. His grandson, Gus, has photography glass plates of his grandfather’s work.
While in Portsmouth, Sarah Eddy introduced him to the woman who would become his wife – Clara Brownell May – daughter of Floride Mitchell. When their house was built in 1898, they married. Clara believed that if she was to marry an artist, it should be one who could put a roof over her head.
Oscar Miller had married into a Bristol Ferry family. Clara’s aunts were part of the Bristol Ferry Art Colony – Sophie Mitchell (artist) and Cora Mitchell (poet and musician). Miller’s home and studio were built on Mitchell land that had been an asparagus farm. The Mitchells raised and traded cotton in Florida. Mrs. Miller’s uncle Colby had even been impressed into the Confederate Army and had to be rescued and brought back north. The family spent their time between Florida and Bristol Ferry.
Oscar Miller was a great organizer with a business mind. He had an art gallery and would also buy art as well as produce it. He painted in his suit because much of his work was painting portraits and he never knew when a client would come. Miller painted the portraits of many important Fall River businessmen and matrons.
During the Spring, Summer and Fall, he would make the rounds of European sights – Holland, Northeast France, Brittany, St. Ives in England. In the winter he would come back to Bristol Ferry to paint his great works.
When he was in Bristol Ferry he used to go out at dawn and sunset. He thought the light in Bristol Ferry was among the most beautiful in the world because it was surrounded by water like Venice or Holland.
Bristol Ferry was unique. It had the warmest climate on the island and the surrounding water kept the growing fields moist even in drought. People would come to Bristol Ferry farms as a vacation destination. It was a wonderful area for artists to come for the summer season.
Most of my information on Oscar Miller was from an interview with August “Gus” Miller – Oscar Miller’s grandson. Sept. 12, 2014
The image of Oscar Miller’s painting is from this website: https://www.rubylane.com/item/230729-JB04415/OSCAR-MILLER-1867-1921-still-life