Lanarkshire-born John Miller (about 1796-1876) was in business as a merchant in Liverpool by 1819. He came to be highly respected within the town’s business community. Miller also became one of Liverpool’s most important and prolific art collectors. His collecting bordered on obsession, although economic peaks and troughs influenced his activity. His first Pre-Raphaelite purchases followed a successful business deal in 1854 but he sold a substantial part of his collection in 1858 after months of financial losses. Over the years, Miller’s Liverpool homes and
business premises, and his retreat ‘Ardencraig’ on the Isle of Bute, overflowed with pictures. He also became an amateur picture dealer, buying and selling on behalf of artists and other collectors. He lent works to friends and brokered loans to exhibitions.
Miller’s patronage was renowned, making it possible for painters such as William Davis (1812 - 1873) to survive. He also enjoyed close friendships with the London Pre-Raphaelite artists, notably Ford Madox Brown (1821 - 1893). The well-liked Scot was a familiar figure at the Liverpool Academy and hosted house parties at which the Liverpool and London Pre-Raphaelites socialised. Amongst works previously owned by Miller were Millais’s (1829 - 1896) The Blind Girl (Birmingham Museums), Brown’s Waiting: An English Fireside in the Winter of 1854-5 (Walker Art Gallery) and Windus’s (1822 - 1907) Burd Helen (Walker Art Gallery).
Miller worked in the same office building in Crosshall Street Liverpool, as Scottish-born Liverpool merchant and businessman Joseph Robinson. Robinson was also an art collector and the two were known to exchange art works. There is a portrait of Joseph Robinson (WAG 8657) and a portrait of his wife (WAG 8658), in the Walker Art Gallery collection painted by British artist John Ewart Robertson (1820 - 1879).