Monday, 24 June 2019

George Catlin - part 1

Self-Portrait by George Catlin at the age of 28

George Catlin was born in Wilkes-Barre, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. As a child growing up in Pennsylvania, Catlin had spent many hours hunting, fishing, and looking for American Indian artifacts. His fascination with Native Americans was kindled by his mother, who told him stories of the western frontier and how she was captured by a tribe when she was a young girl. Years later, a group of Native Americans came through Philadelphia dressed in their colourful outfits and made quite an impression on Catlin.

Following a brief career as an attorney, Catlin produced two major collections of paintings of American Indians and published a series of books chronicling his travels among the native peoples of North, Central, and South America. Spurred by relics brought back by the famous Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1804–1806 owned by his friend, Charles Willason Peale, and claiming his interest in America’s 'vanishing race', sparked by a visiting American Indian delegation in Philadelphia, he set out to record the appearance and customs of America’s native peoples.

Catlin began his journey in 1830 when he accompanied General William Clark on a diplomatic mission up the Mississippi River into Native American territory. St. Louis became Catlin’s base of operations for five trips he took between 1830 and 1836, eventually visiting fifty tribes. Two years later he ascended the Missouri River more than 3000 km to Fort Union Trading Post, near what is now the North Dakota-Montana border, where he spent several weeks among indigenous people who were still relatively untouched by European culture. He visited eighteen tribes. There he produced the most vivid and penetrating portraits of his career. During later trips along the ArkansasRed, and Mississippi rivers, as well as visits to Florida and the Great Lakes,he produced more than 500 paintings and gathered a substantial collection of artifacts.

In 1839 Catlin took his collection across the Atlantic for a tour of European capitals. As a showman and Entrepreneur, he initially attracted crowds to his Indian Gallery in London, Brussels, and Paris. The French critic Charles Baudelaire remarked on Catlin’s paintings, "He has brought back alive the proud and free characters of these chiefs, both their nobility and manliness."

Catlin wanted to sell his Indian Gallery to the U.S. government to have his life’s work preserved intact. His continued attempts to persuade various officials in Washington, D.C. to buy the collection failed. In 1852 he was forced to sell the original Indian Gallery, now 607 paintings, due to personal debts. The industrialist Joseph Harrison acquired the paintings and artifacts, which he stored in a factory in Philadelphia, as security.

Catlin spent the last 20 years of his life trying to re-create his collection, and recreated more than 400 paintings. This second collection of paintings is known as the "Cartoon Collection," since the works are based on the outlines he drew of the works from the 1830s.

The nearly complete surviving set of Catlin's first Indian Gallery, painted in the 1830s, is now part of the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s collection (Washington, DC).


This is part 1 of a 7-part series on the works of George Catlin:


1825-30c Portrait of a Woman
oil on canvas 50.5 x 35.6 cm
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC

1827 Red Jacket, Seneca
watercolour on paper mounted on card 28.5 x 19 cm
Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa, Oklahoma

1828 Hoo-w'a-ne-kaw, Little Elk
( Winnebago Tribe )
oil on canvas 47 x 35.7 cm
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC

1828 Káw-kaw-ne-chóo-a, a Brave
( Winnebago Tribe )
oil on canvas 46.7 x 35.7 cm
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC

1828 No-ak-chóo-she-kaw, He Who Breaks the Bushes
( Winnebago Tribe )
oil on canvas 47 x 35.7 cm
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC

1830 Ah-tón-we-tuck, Cock Turkey, Repeating His Prayer
( Kickapoo Tribe )
oil on canvas 73.7 x 60.9 cm
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC

1830 Ke-chím-qua, Big Bear
( Kickapoo Tribe )
oil on canvas 73.7 x 60.9 cm
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC

1830 Kee-mo-rá-nia, No English, a Dandy
( Peoria Tribe )
oil on canvas 73.7 x 60.9 cm
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC

1830 Kee-món-saw, Little Chief, a Chief
( Kaskaskia Tribe )
oil on canvas 73.7 x 60.9 cm
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC

1830 Lay-láw-she-kaw, Goes Up the River, an Aged Chief
( Shawnee Tribe )
oil on canvas 73.7 x 60.9 cm
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC

1830 Ma-shée-na, Elk's Horns, a Subchief
( Kickapoo Tribe )
oil on canvas 73.7 x 60.9 cm
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC

1830 Men-són-se-ah, Left Hand, a Warrior
( Piankashaw Tribe )
oil on canvas 73.7 x 60.9 cm
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC

1830 Ni-a-có-mo, Fix with the Foot, a Brave
oil on canvas 73.6 x 60.9 cm
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC

1830 On-sáw-kie, The Sauk, in the Act of Praying
( Sauk - Sac and Fox Tribe )
oil on canvas 73.7 x 60.9 cm
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC

1830 Pah-te-cóo-saw, Straight Man, Semicivilized
( Shawnee Tribe, in European clothing )
oil on canvas 73.7 x 60.9 cm
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC

1830 Shee-náh-wee
( Kickapoo Tribe )
oil on canvas 73.7 x 60.9 cm
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC

1830 Ten-sqúat-a-way, The Open Door, Known as The Prophet, Brother of Tecumseh
( Shawnee Tribe )
oil on canvas 73.7 x 60.9 cm
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC

1830 The Female Eagle - Shawano
oil on canvas 72.2 x 59 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

1830 Wah-pe-séh-see, Mother of the Chief
( Kaskaskia Tribe )
oil on canvas 73.7 x 60.9 cm
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC

1830 Wah-pón-jee-a, The Swan, a Warrior
( Wea Tribe )
oil on canvas

1830-32 Black Hawk, Prominent Sauk Chief
( Sauk - Sac  and Fox Tribe )
oil on canvas 69.8 x 57.1 cm
Private Collection

1830-32 One Horn, Head Chief of the Miniconjou Tribe, Teton Dakota
( Western Sioux )
oil on canvas 68.5 x 57.1 cm
Private Collection

1831 Ah-yaw-ne-tak-oár-ron, a Warrior
( Menominee Tribe )
oil on canvas 53.7 x 41.9 cm
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC

1831 Aú-nah-kwet-to-hau-páy-o, One Sitting in the Clouds, a Boy
( Menominee Tribe )
oil on canvas 53.5 x 42 cm
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC

1831 Good Hunter, a Warrior
( Seneca Tribe )
oil on canvas 53.6 x 41.9 cm
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC

1831 Hard Hickory, an Amiable Man
( Seneca Tribe )
oil on canvas 53.6 x 41.9 cm
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC

1831 Ko-mán-i-kin, Big Wave, an Old and Distinguished Chief
( Menominee Tribe )
oil on canvas 53.7 x 41.8 cm
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC

1831 Mah-kée-mee-teuv, Grizzly Bear, Chief of the Tribe
( Menominee Tribe )
oil on canvas 53.8 x 40.9 cm
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC

1831 Mee-chéet-e-neuh, Wounded Bear's Shoulder, Wife of the Chief
( Menominee Tribe )
oil on canvas 53.5 x 41.9 cm
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC

1831 Pah-shee-náu-shaw, a Warrior
( Menominee Tribe )
oil on canvas 53.6 x 42 cm
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC

1831 Seneca Steele, a Great Libertine
 ( Seneca Tribe )
oil on canvas 55.3 x 42.4 cm
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC

1831 Sha-wá-no, The South, a Noted Warrior
( Menominee Tribe )
oil on canvas 53.6 x 42 cm
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC

1831 Tcha-káuk-o-ko-máugh, Great Chief, a Boy
  ( Menominee Tribe )
oil on canvas 53.6 x 41.9 cm
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC


When George Catlin made his first trips up the Missouri River in 1830 and 1832, he was enraptured by the landscape. Though he had worked as a portraitist in Philadelphia and originally intended to paint Native Americans themselves, he felt compelled to depict their prairies, rivers, and hills as well. Catlin wrote: “There is no more beautiful prairie country in the world, than that which is to be seen in this vicinity . . . The surface of the country is gracefully and slightly undulating, like the swells of the retiring ocean after a heavy storm.” He was no less captivated by the landscape on his trip up the Mississippi in 1835. In the prairie bluffs seen here, Catlin captured the same “ocean swells” of rolling hills he had seen and enjoyed earlier.


1832  River Bluffs with White Wolves in the Foreground, Upper Missouri
oil on canvas 28.5 x 36.6 cm
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC

1832 "Brick Kilns," Clay Bluffs 1900 Miles above St. Louis
oil on canvas 28.3 x 36.3 cm
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC

1832 Ah'-kay-ee-pix-en, Woman Who Strikes Many
( Blackfoot - Siksika Tribe )
oil on canvas 73.7 x 60.9 cm
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC

1832 Beautiful Clay Bluffs, 1900 Miles above St. Louis
oil on canvas 28.5 x 36.6 cm
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC

1832 Beautiful Grassy Bluffs, 110 Miles above St. Louis
oil on canvas 28.4 x 36.6 cm
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC

1832 Beautiful Prairie Bluffs above the Poncas, 1050 Miles above St. Louis
oil on canvas 28.5 x 36.6 cm
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC

1832 Belle Vue, Indian Agency of Major Dougherty, 870 Miles above St. Louis
oil on canvas 28.5 x 36.5 cm
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC

1832 Blackbird's Grave, a Back View, Prairies Enamelled with Flowers
oil on canvas 28.5 x 36.6 cm
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC

1832 Blackfoot Indian Group
oil on paper 41.3 x 57.8 cm
Private Collection

1832 Bull Dance, Mandan o-kee-pa Ceremony
oil on canvas 58.1 x 70.8 cm
American Museum of Western Art, Denver, Colorado

1832 Chá-tee-wah-née-che, No Heart, Chief of the Wah-ne-watch-to-nee-nah Band
( Dakota - Sioux Tribe )
oil on canvas 73.7 x 60.9 cm
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC

1832 Cháh-ee-chópes, Four Wolves, a Chief in Mourning
( Crow Tribe )
oil on canvas 73.7 x 60.9 cm
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC

1832 Clay Bluffs, Twenty Miles above the Mandans
oil on canvas 28.6 x 36.7 cm
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC

1832 Distant View of the Mandan Village
oil on canvas 28.5 x 36.7 cm
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC

1832 Duhk-gits-o-ó-see, Red Bear, a Distinguished Warrior
( Crow Tribe )
oil on canvas 73.7 x 60.9 cm
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC

1832 E'e-a-chín-che-a, Red Thunder, Son of Black Moccasin
oil on canvas 73.6 x 60.9 cm
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC

1832 Eeh-nís-kim, Crystal Stone, Wife of the Chief
( Blackfoot Tribe )
oil on canvas 73.7 x 60.9 cm
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC

1832 Eeh-tow-wées-ka-zeet, He Who Has Eyes Behind Him (also known as Broken Arm), a Foremost Brave
( Cree Tribe )
oil on canvas 73.7 x 60.9 cm
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC

1832 Eé-hee-a-duck-cée-a, He Who Ties His Hair Before
( Crow Tribe )
oil on canvas 73.7 x 60.9 cm
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC

1832 Eh-toh'k-pah-she-pée-shah, Black Moccasin,
aged Chief
( Hidatsa Tribe )
oil on canvas 73.7 x 60.9 cm
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC

1832 Fire in a Missouri Meadow and a Party of Sioux Indians escaping from It, Upper Missouri
oil on paperboard 45.7 x 61.6 cm
Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, CA

1832 Floyd's Grave, Where Lewis and Clark Buried Sergeant Floyd in 1804
oil on canvas 28.5 x 36.6 cm
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC

1832 Fort Pierre, Mouth of the Teton River, 1200 Miles above Saint Louis
oil on canvas 28.6 x 36.7 cm
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC

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