George Catlin’s incredibly intimate 1830s portraits of Native American Indians. Pt. 1.
George Catlin (1796 – 1872) was an American lawyer, painter, author, and traveler, who specialized in portraits of Native American Indians in the Old West. He also researched and documented their views on mouth breathing and wrote a book on the subject.
Catlin went on a total of five trips out to document the Indians in the 1830s. On returning east in 1838, he assembled his huge collection of paintings along with the numerous Indian artifacts he’d gathered into what he called his Indian Gallery, and took it on the road. The Catlin Indian Gallery roadshow delivered to the public lectures & tales; his personal recollections of life spent amongst Native American Indians. Catlin traveled with his Indian Gallery to Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and New York. He hung his paintings “salon style”; side by side and one above another. Visitors identified each painting by the number on the frame, as listed in a catalogue that Catlin provided. Soon afterward, he began a lifelong effort to sell his collection to the U.S. government. The touring Indian Gallery did not attract the paying public Catlin needed to stay financially sound, and the U.S. Congress rejected his initial petition to purchase the works.
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 and poet, Charles Baudelaire said of Catlin’s paintings, “He has brought back alive the proud and free characters of these chiefs, both their nobility and manliness.”