Some highly regarded marine artists have spent time working at sea, and while many mariners practiced some artistic discipline, very few ever made the transition from amateur to a full career of a professional artist. Captain C.K. Miller is a shining exception, alongside the ranks of William Coulter and Charles Robert Patterson. The Scottish-born artist took to the sea at 15 on the Steamship CORREO, and took to sketching scenes from his voyages.
Born in Dundee, where the eastern ports offered positions mostly on Artic whalers and fishing fleets, Miller decided to serve out of Glasgow, Whitehaven and Liverpool as well over the next ten years, earning his master’s certificate in 1861, and captaining voyages to the Far East. Paintings from this era surface, but rarely, as he supplemented his income with artistic commissions. Most of his paintings coming from the 1880s and after, when he retired from the nautical trades to pursue art fulltime. He proved to be quite productive, with a wide range of marine subjects. His watchful eye observed and caught a wide swath of commercial steamers, all manner of sailing ships and some of the first armored warships. His expertise traveled to leisure sailing scenes as well, with fresh breezes and challenging nautical environments aplenty. His lone exhibition was in the Royal Scottish Academy, with “After the Squall” in 1888.
Credit to the research of Mrs. Patricia Bouchier, a descendant of the McCorkell Line of shipowners, there exists an extensive report on Miller with a comprehensive catalog raisonné in the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich.