Elis Miller and the Cliche Verre Print

This holiday season, the Ohio Historical Society has been celebrating the artist Norman Rockwell. The twentieth-century painter and illustrator’s works have enjoyed broad popular appeal for generations through The Saturday Evening Post About fifty years before Rockwell’s publishing career, little known artists were making a name for themselves and finding innovative ways to mass produce their view of America life. One of them was Canton, Ohio native, Elis F. Miller. 

Elis Miller, Ca. 1875

Elis Miller, Ca. 1875

 
 When Miller moved to Columbus, he translated his views into traditional etchings, and tinkered with an innovative process called ‘cliché verre’ to produce his prints. These scenes were etched on sensitized photographic plates and then printed in the tradition of glass plate photography on albumen paper. The short-lived technological improvement was first practiced by a number of French painters in the mid-nineteenth century, most notably landscape painter and etcher Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot.

Miller came to Columbus after the Civil War and began his career as an amateur photographer and art student. As an apprentice to Columbus’ first art instructor and portraitist, John Henry Witt, Miller’s skill in illustrating everyday scenes was keen. While living in the city, he developed an interest in watercolor and print making. Through his travels to southern Ohio and West Virginia, he developed his talent by documenting life in the country. His lively watercolors and sketches energized the rural landscape and his boat scenes on Lake Erie swayed with his lines. 

Elis F. Miller’s sensitively detailed prints and watercolors won many awards at the Ohio State Fair. They were shown at the Philadelphia Exposition and National Academy of Design in New York. The artist died young at the age of 43 but his work became known well past his lifetime. Today his work can be found at the Smithsonian Institution, Cleveland Museum of Art, and the Columbus Museum of Art. The Ohio Historical Society Series Connecting to Collections will focus on the Columbus artist’s work January 31 at 2:00 pm. Visit the red carpet area and see Elis Miller’s work. We will also learn about the etching and cliché verre process.

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