Buffalo Bull, Grazing on the Prairie by George Catlin, 1832–1833
The American painter George Catlin has left us a remarkable record of the lives of American Indians in the 1830s.
The Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM) in Washington, DC holds the largest collection of Catlin works in the world, hundreds of paintings documenting the experiences of peoples he feared were doomed, as Americans moved from East to West in search of land.
This presentation, by Dr. Donna Fowler, docent at SAAM, will provide background information on the artist and a broad overview of Catlin’s work, setting it in historical context and closely examining his style, subject choices, and artistic intentions. Questions and observations from audience members are encouraged and welcome.
Catlin was among the earliest artists of European descent to travel beyond the Mississippi River, and in the 1830s he journeyed west five times to record, as he called it, the “manners and customs” of Native cultures, painting scenes and portraits from life. His ambitious project was largely fueled by the fear that American Indians, the great buffalo herds, and a way of life would one day vanish. In hundreds of canvases, he captured the landscape and tribal figures.