© Memorial Hall Museum, Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association
Designed by Ellen Miller, The Pear Tree is one of several narrow embroidered and appliqued panels, intended to be placed into a three-part screen. Miller's solitary, stylized pear tree balances on the edge of a flower-strewn incline overlooking a vista of distant mountains and sky.
By a carefully choreographed use of line, the artist both suggests shape and brings harmony to her composition. At the same time, Miller is able to draw our attention to the two-dimensional nature of her needlework and to suggest deep space. Distant mountains devised through shapes of appliqued fabric in ever-lightening fields of indigo lead our eye into the composition. The background of the upper two-thirds of the embroidery is devoted to sky, activated by horizontal bands of needle-woven thread, again both suggesting depth, and locking the viewer's eye onto the planar surface of the work. All of these representational strategies suggest that Ellen Miller was well aware of the American art world's increasing fascination with the design tendencies revealed by Japanese prints and by the work of other Arts and Crafts artisans in both Britain and the United States. The source of Miller's actual pears is a coverlet stitched by Rebekah Dickinson in the 18th century. Dickinson's abstracted fruit likewise swing from twiggy branches.