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  • Peter Miller: American Modernist & Surrealist Painter 


    Since the early summer days of 2020, Gratz Gallery & Conservation Studio has been working on the conservation of the estate and on the revival of the story of American Modernist and Surrealist painter Peter Miller (Henrietta Myers, 1913 - 1996). It is with great honor that we introduce this exciting collection of works, accompanied by a fully illustrated book on Peter Miller, Forgotten Woman of American Modernism, and the first monograph on this artist ever published, with a text written by Francis M. Naumann. To learn about the artist and browse the inventory, please explore the links below.


    The Story of Peter Miller:

    American artist Peter Miller (1913-1996) was born Henrietta Myers in Hanover, Pennsylvania. She began using the name Peter Miller after concluding her studies at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 1934 and her marriage to fellow artist and Academy student Earle Miller in 1935. She felt collectors and critics would take her paintings more seriously if she was identified as a male. In childhood, Henrietta and her best friend Ruth picked fictitious nicknames for themselves, and Henrietta reportedly decided upon the name Peter because she liked the idea that it was derived from the Greek word for “rock” or “stone”. Drawn to being one with the natural world would prove to be an essential inspiration to her creativity throughout her life.
    Miller is classified as an American Modernist, a reputation she earned for having two one-woman shows at the prestigious gallery and premiere showcase for Surrealist painting of Julien Levy in New York in 1944 and '45. Reviewers of her exhibitions noted the unmistakable influence of the artists Joan Miró, whose work she owned and whom she knew, and Arthur Carles, whom she studied with.

    Francis M Naumann writes in the monograph published on the artist: "The influence of Miró on Miller’s work in this period is undeniable, a characteristic that was much in evidence when her paintings were shown in two exhibitions at the Julien Levy Gallery in New York, the first held in the spring of 1944, followed by a second in the fall of 1945. Several paintings included in these shows looked so much like the work of the Catalan master that they could be visually confused with them, as in the case of her Fantasy Figures in a Landscape, which depicts an amorphic, cartoon like figure against a blank, monochromatic background, much in the manner of Miró, or an untitled work from the late 1930s that today is called Head of a Man, but that looks more like a jumble of birds and fish entrapped within a circular fishbowl."

    "To say that I want to study art simply because I love it seems both sentimental and inadequate, but I can give no other reason. To be constantly aware of loveliness of line and color and at the same time to know that awareness is not enough and that expression must follow, leads inevitably toward art. I am not studying art with any view of making a living by it, but only because I want to do it so much that I would rather fail at painting than succeed at anything else." – Peter Miller (Excerpt from her September 15, 1933 application to study at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia)

    Peter and her husband Earle considered New Mexico their spiritual home, and in 1935 they built a ranch in Española, about 25 miles north of Santa Fe. Being neighbors of the indigenous people of the Tewa Pueblo, their crafts and religious beliefs fascinated Peter and the reliance of Native Americans upon the land and the animals permeated her work for most of her career. Their belief that all creatures could serve as intermediaries in communication with the spiritual world, inspired Miller to incorporate their symbols in her own paintings, along with signs drawn from indigenous pottery and local petroglyphs. Miller's intimate familiarity with the customs, rituals, and ceremonies, was assisted by her friendship with the writer Edith Warner and her friend Tilano Montoya, a Native American from the San Ildefonso Pueblo.

    Events & Exhibits

    Coming Home, Peyton Wright Gallery: October 1 - November 15, 2021, 237 East Palace Avenue, Santa Fe, NM 8750

    The Delaware Antique Show: November 5 - 7, 2021, Chase Center on the Riverfront, 815 Justison Street, Wilmington, DE 19801

    Peter Miller Virtual Tour: Coming Soon, Online

    Spring Show, 2022 at Gratz Gallery: Information Coming Soon, 5230 Silo Hill Road Doylestown, PA 18902