Divine Acts of Creation
Edgar Miller's Reverence for Nature & the Creative Act
Edgar Miller is best known for the Victorian buildings in Chicago's Old Town that he renovated into immersive and imaginative home/studios—"total works of art" rooted in the Arts & Crafts tradition, with a progressive artistic spirit. The present lot resembles motifs Miller was working with at the time, which endured to become emblems in his diverse body of work.
While many artists and designers of the early modernist era moved toward non-representational and secular imagery, Miller celebrated the riches of the natural world, as he grew up in the rugged early Idaho frontier and spent part of his youth in Australia as a beekeeper. He was particularly fond of horses, tracing his love for them back to Winnie, a pony he received from his father when he was nine-years-old. Miller also was inspired by a wide-range of visual history, including religious and world art and crafts, rather than devoting himself to an austere modernist treatise.
The present lot was likely executed around 1930, when Miller created the plaster frieze pictured below in the Glasner Studio, located at the back of the Carl Street Studio complex that Miller and Sol Kogen had been working on since 1927. The frieze depicts figures representing music, dance, architecture, drama and art—an all-encompassing arc of the creative act. The decorative depiction of lightning in the frieze is echoed in the frame of the present lot, as is the classic style with which the figures and horses are rendered. Miller projected his singular vision onto every available surface, producing ecstatic works in reverence of nature and the divine act of creating, that held both "the violence of inspiration as well as the quietude of inspiration."
There is a kind of decent comeliness that suffices very well for many homes…If you feel that a home should be only this, and a springboard to leap lightly toward movie or baseball game, stay away from the Edgar Miller studios on Carl Street and Wells Street. For they will fill you with the haunting surety that you are missing something remarkable and lovely in this world.
Alice Mckinstry, “Chicago Art Colony Modern,” Woman Athletic, August 1930