Saturday, November 30, 2019

~ Chee-a-ex-e-co, Daughter of Deer without a Heart by George Catlin 1796-1872

George Catlin (American artist, 1796-1872) Chee-a-ex-e-co, Daughter of Deer without a Heart 1838

The artist George Catlin (1796–1872), who based his entire body of work—including over 500 paintings done in the 1830s & several books recounting his travels—on the theory of the Vanishing American, provided a vivid description of the process at work: "In traversing the immense regions of the Classic West, the mind of a Philanthropist is filled to the brim with feelings of admiration; but to reach this country, one is obliged to descend from the light & glow of civilized atmosphere, through the different grades of civilization, which gradually sink to the most deplorable vice & darkness along our frontier; thence through the most pitiable misery & wretchedness of savage degradation, where the genius of natural liberty & independence have been blasted & destroyed by the contaminating vices & dissipations of civilized society. Through this dark & sunken vale of wretchedness one hurries as through a pestilence, until he gradually rises again into the proud & heroic elegance of savage society, in a state of pure & original nature, beyond the reach of civilized contamination … Even here, the predominant passions of the savage breast, of treachery & cruelty, are often found, yet restrained & frequently subdued by the noblest traits of honor & magnanimity,—a race of men who live & enjoy life & its luxuries, & practice its virtues, very far beyond the usual estimations of the world … From the first settlements of our Atlantic coast to the present day, the bane of this blasting frontier has regularly crowded upon them, from the northern to the southern extremities of our country, &, like the fire in a mountain, which destroys every thing where it passes, it has blasted & sunk them, & all but their names, into oblivion, wherever it has traveled."

>New Jersey born George Catlin (1796-1872) is reknowned for his extensive travels across the American West, recording the lives of Native Americans. In 1818, Catlin practiced law in Connecticut & Pennsylvania, but he abandoned his practice in 1821 to pursue painting. Catlin enjoyed modest success painting portraits & miniatures, but he longed to be a history painter. In 1828, after seeing a delegation of western Indians in the east, he had wrote that he had found a subject, "on which to devote a whole life-time of enthusiasm." In 1830, Catlin made his initial pilgrimage to St. Louis to meet William Clark & learn from him all he could of the western lands he hoped to visit. Catlin traveled the frontier from 1830 to 1836, visiting 50 tribes west of the Mississippi, from present-day North Dakota to Oklahoma, creating an astonishing visual record of Native American life. He had only a short time to accomplish his goal—to capture with canvas & paint the essence of Indian life & culture. In that same year, the Indian Removal Act commenced the 12-year action that would remove the remaining Indians from land east of the Mississippi. Within a few years, the they would be decimated by smallpox; with in a few decades, the number of buffalo would drop from millions to a few thousand, & the Native Americans' high prairies would be crosshatched by the plow & the railroad.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

~ Wife of The Six by George Catlin 1796-1872

George Catlin (American artist, 1796-1872) Wife of The Six

The artist George Catlin (1796–1872), who based his entire body of work—including over 500 paintings done in the 1830s & several books recounting his travels—on the theory of the Vanishing American, provided a vivid description of the process at work: "In traversing the immense regions of the Classic West, the mind of a Philanthropist is filled to the brim with feelings of admiration; but to reach this country, one is obliged to descend from the light & glow of civilized atmosphere, through the different grades of civilization, which gradually sink to the most deplorable vice & darkness along our frontier; thence through the most pitiable misery & wretchedness of savage degradation, where the genius of natural liberty & independence have been blasted & destroyed by the contaminating vices & dissipations of civilized society. Through this dark & sunken vale of wretchedness one hurries as through a pestilence, until he gradually rises again into the proud & heroic elegance of savage society, in a state of pure & original nature, beyond the reach of civilized contamination … Even here, the predominant passions of the savage breast, of treachery & cruelty, are often found, yet restrained & frequently subdued by the noblest traits of honor & magnanimity,—a race of men who live & enjoy life & its luxuries, & practice its virtues, very far beyond the usual estimations of the world … From the first settlements of our Atlantic coast to the present day, the bane of this blasting frontier has regularly crowded upon them, from the northern to the southern extremities of our country, &, like the fire in a mountain, which destroys every thing where it passes, it has blasted & sunk them, & all but their names, into oblivion, wherever it has traveled."

>New Jersey born George Catlin (1796-1872) is reknowned for his extensive travels across the American West, recording the lives of Native Americans. In 1818, Catlin practiced law in Connecticut & Pennsylvania, but he abandoned his practice in 1821 to pursue painting. Catlin enjoyed modest success painting portraits & miniatures, but he longed to be a history painter. In 1828, after seeing a delegation of western Indians in the east, he had wrote that he had found a subject, "on which to devote a whole life-time of enthusiasm." In 1830, Catlin made his initial pilgrimage to St. Louis to meet William Clark & learn from him all he could of the western lands he hoped to visit. Catlin traveled the frontier from 1830 to 1836, visiting 50 tribes west of the Mississippi, from present-day North Dakota to Oklahoma, creating an astonishing visual record of Native American life. He had only a short time to accomplish his goal—to capture with canvas & paint the essence of Indian life & culture. In that same year, the Indian Removal Act commenced the 12-year action that would remove the remaining Indians from land east of the Mississippi. Within a few years, the they would be decimated by smallpox; with in a few decades, the number of buffalo would drop from millions to a few thousand, & the Native Americans' high prairies would be crosshatched by the plow & the railroad.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Paul Kane (1810–1871) Native American Buffalo Camp

Paul Kane (1810–1871) Buffalo Camp

The main reason for the bison's near-demise, much like the actual demise of the Passenger Pigeon, was commercial hunting.
Bison skins were used for industrial machine belts, clothing such as robes, & rugs. There was a huge export trade to Europe of bison hides. Old West bison hunting was very often a big commercial enterprise, involving organized teams of one or two professional hunters, backed by a team of skinners, gun cleaners, cartridge reloaders, cooks, wranglers, blacksmiths, security guards, teamsters, & numerous horses & wagons. Men were even employed to recover & recast lead bullets taken from the carcasses. Many of these professional hunters, such as Buffalo Bill Cody, killed over a hundred animals at a single stand & many thousands in their career. One professional hunter killed over 20,000 by his own count. A good hide could bring $3 in Dodge City, Kansas, & a very good one (the heavy winter coat) could sell for $50 in an era when a laborer would be lucky to make a dollar a day.

The hunter would customarily locate the herd in the early morning, & station himself about 100 yards/meters from it, shooting the animals broadside through the lungs. Head shots were not preferred as the soft lead bullets would often flatten & fail to penetrate the skull, especially if mud was matted on the head of the animal. The bison would continue to drop until either the herd sensed danger & stampeded or perhaps a wounded animal attacked another, causing the herd to disperse. If done properly a large number of bison would be felled at one time. Following up were the skinners, who would drive a spike through the nose of each dead animal with a sledgehammer, hook up a horse team, & pull the hide from the carcass. The hides were dressed, prepared, & stacked on the wagons by other members of the organization.

For a decade after 1873, there were several hundred, perhaps over a thousand, such commercial hide hunting outfits harvesting bison at any one time, vastly exceeding the take by American Indians or individual meat hunters. The commercial take arguably was anywhere from 2,000 to 100,000 animals per day depending on the season, though there are no statistics available. It was said that the Big .50s were fired so much that hunters needed at least two rifles to let the barrels cool off; The Fireside Book of Guns reports they were sometimes quenched in the winter snow. Dodge City saw railroad cars sent East filled with stacked hides.


The building of the railroads through Colorado & Kansas split the bison herd in two parts, the southern herd & the northern herd. The last refuge of the southern herd was in the Texas Panhandle.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Alfred Jacob Miller (1810-1874) - Indian Lodge

Alfred Jacob Miller (American artist, 1810-1874) Indian Lodge

Indian Lodge

Along the waters of the upper Platte River, Miller encountered this Indian who had taken advantage of a perculiarly bent tree to put up planks to form a "very tolerable Lodge for his progeny." To the right a female is seated, making moccasins. The head of the household is seated to the left, smoking his calumet, "not trying to solve the difficult problem, the squaring of the circle," Miller supposed. A.J. Miller, extracted from "The West of Alfred Jacob Miller" (1837).  

In July of 1858, Baltimore art collector William T. Walters commissioned 200 watercolors at $12  apiece from Baltimore-born artist Alfred Jacob Miller. These paintings were each accompanied by a descriptive text written by the artist, & were delivered in installments over the next 21 months & ultimately bound in 3 albums. These albums included the field-sketches drawn during Miller's 1837 expedition to the annual fur-trader's rendezvous in the Green River Valley (now western Wyoming).  These watercolors offer a unique record of the the lives of those involved in the closing years of the western fur trade & a look at the artist's opinions of both women & Native Americans. 

 The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, Maryland. 

Friday, November 22, 2019

~ Ru-ton-ye-wee-ma, Strutting Pigeon, Wife of White Cloud by George Catlin 1796-1872

George Catlin (American artist, 1796-1872) Ru-ton-ye-wee-ma, Strutting Pigeon, Wife of White Cloud

The artist George Catlin (1796–1872), who based his entire body of work—including over 500 paintings done in the 1830s & several books recounting his travels—on the theory of the Vanishing American, provided a vivid description of the process at work: "In traversing the immense regions of the Classic West, the mind of a Philanthropist is filled to the brim with feelings of admiration; but to reach this country, one is obliged to descend from the light & glow of civilized atmosphere, through the different grades of civilization, which gradually sink to the most deplorable vice & darkness along our frontier; thence through the most pitiable misery & wretchedness of savage degradation, where the genius of natural liberty & independence have been blasted & destroyed by the contaminating vices & dissipations of civilized society. Through this dark & sunken vale of wretchedness one hurries as through a pestilence, until he gradually rises again into the proud & heroic elegance of savage society, in a state of pure & original nature, beyond the reach of civilized contamination … Even here, the predominant passions of the savage breast, of treachery & cruelty, are often found, yet restrained & frequently subdued by the noblest traits of honor & magnanimity,—a race of men who live & enjoy life & its luxuries, & practice its virtues, very far beyond the usual estimations of the world … From the first settlements of our Atlantic coast to the present day, the bane of this blasting frontier has regularly crowded upon them, from the northern to the southern extremities of our country, &, like the fire in a mountain, which destroys every thing where it passes, it has blasted & sunk them, & all but their names, into oblivion, wherever it has traveled."

New Jersey born George Catlin (1796-1872) is reknowned for his extensive travels across the American West, recording the lives of Native Americans. In 1818, Catlin practiced law in Connecticut & Pennsylvania, but he abandoned his practice in 1821 to pursue painting. Catlin enjoyed modest success painting portraits & miniatures, but he longed to be a history painter. In 1828, after seeing a delegation of western Indians in the east, he had wrote that he had found a subject, "on which to devote a whole life-time of enthusiasm." In 1830, Catlin made his initial pilgrimage to St. Louis to meet William Clark & learn from him all he could of the western lands he hoped to visit. Catlin traveled the frontier from 1830 to 1836, visiting 50 tribes west of the Mississippi, from present-day North Dakota to Oklahoma, creating an astonishing visual record of Native American life. He had only a short time to accomplish his goal—to capture with canvas & paint the essence of Indian life & culture. In that same year, the Indian Removal Act commenced the 12-year action that would remove the remaining Indians from land east of the Mississippi. Within a few years, the they would be decimated by smallpox; with in a few decades, the number of buffalo would drop from millions to a few thousand, & the Native Americans' high prairies would be crosshatched by the plow & the railroad.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

~ Seet-sé-be-a, Midday Sun by George Catlin 1796-1872

George Catlin (American artist, 1796-1872) Seet-sé-be-a, Midday Sun, a Pretty Girl

The artist George Catlin (1796–1872), who based his entire body of work—including over 500 paintings done in the 1830s & several books recounting his travels—on the theory of the Vanishing American, provided a vivid description of the process at work: "In traversing the immense regions of the Classic West, the mind of a Philanthropist is filled to the brim with feelings of admiration; but to reach this country, one is obliged to descend from the light & glow of civilized atmosphere, through the different grades of civilization, which gradually sink to the most deplorable vice & darkness along our frontier; thence through the most pitiable misery & wretchedness of savage degradation, where the genius of natural liberty & independence have been blasted & destroyed by the contaminating vices & dissipations of civilized society. Through this dark & sunken vale of wretchedness one hurries as through a pestilence, until he gradually rises again into the proud & heroic elegance of savage society, in a state of pure & original nature, beyond the reach of civilized contamination … Even here, the predominant passions of the savage breast, of treachery & cruelty, are often found, yet restrained & frequently subdued by the noblest traits of honor & magnanimity,—a race of men who live & enjoy life & its luxuries, & practice its virtues, very far beyond the usual estimations of the world … From the first settlements of our Atlantic coast to the present day, the bane of this blasting frontier has regularly crowded upon them, from the northern to the southern extremities of our country, &, like the fire in a mountain, which destroys every thing where it passes, it has blasted & sunk them, & all but their names, into oblivion, wherever it has traveled."

New Jersey born George Catlin (1796-1872) is reknowned for his extensive travels across the American West, recording the lives of Native Americans. In 1818, Catlin practiced law in Connecticut & Pennsylvania, but he abandoned his practice in 1821 to pursue painting. Catlin enjoyed modest success painting portraits & miniatures, but he longed to be a history painter. In 1828, after seeing a delegation of western Indians in the east, he had wrote that he had found a subject, "on which to devote a whole life-time of enthusiasm." In 1830, Catlin made his initial pilgrimage to St. Louis to meet William Clark & learn from him all he could of the western lands he hoped to visit. Catlin traveled the frontier from 1830 to 1836, visiting 50 tribes west of the Mississippi, from present-day North Dakota to Oklahoma, creating an astonishing visual record of Native American life. He had only a short time to accomplish his goal—to capture with canvas & paint the essence of Indian life & culture. In that same year, the Indian Removal Act commenced the 12-year action that would remove the remaining Indians from land east of the Mississippi. Within a few years, the they would be decimated by smallpox; with in a few decades, the number of buffalo would drop from millions to a few thousand, & the Native Americans' high prairies would be crosshatched by the plow & the railroad.

Monday, November 18, 2019

~ Chin-cha-pee, Fire Bug That Creeps, Wife of Pigeon's Egg Head by George Catlin 1796-1872

George Catlin (American artist, 1796-1872) Chin-cha-pee, Fire Bug That Creeps, Wife of Pigeon's Egg Head

The artist George Catlin (1796–1872), who based his entire body of work—including over 500 paintings done in the 1830s & several books recounting his travels—on the theory of the Vanishing American, provided a vivid description of the process at work: "In traversing the immense regions of the Classic West, the mind of a Philanthropist is filled to the brim with feelings of admiration; but to reach this country, one is obliged to descend from the light & glow of civilized atmosphere, through the different grades of civilization, which gradually sink to the most deplorable vice & darkness along our frontier; thence through the most pitiable misery & wretchedness of savage degradation, where the genius of natural liberty & independence have been blasted & destroyed by the contaminating vices & dissipations of civilized society. Through this dark & sunken vale of wretchedness one hurries as through a pestilence, until he gradually rises again into the proud & heroic elegance of savage society, in a state of pure & original nature, beyond the reach of civilized contamination … Even here, the predominant passions of the savage breast, of treachery & cruelty, are often found, yet restrained & frequently subdued by the noblest traits of honor & magnanimity,—a race of men who live & enjoy life & its luxuries, & practice its virtues, very far beyond the usual estimations of the world … From the first settlements of our Atlantic coast to the present day, the bane of this blasting frontier has regularly crowded upon them, from the northern to the southern extremities of our country, &, like the fire in a mountain, which destroys every thing where it passes, it has blasted & sunk them, & all but their names, into oblivion, wherever it has traveled."

New Jersey born George Catlin (1796-1872) is reknowned for his extensive travels across the American West, recording the lives of Native Americans. In 1818, Catlin practiced law in Connecticut & Pennsylvania, but he abandoned his practice in 1821 to pursue painting. Catlin enjoyed modest success painting portraits & miniatures, but he longed to be a history painter. In 1828, after seeing a delegation of western Indians in the east, he had wrote that he had found a subject, "on which to devote a whole life-time of enthusiasm." In 1830, Catlin made his initial pilgrimage to St. Louis to meet William Clark & learn from him all he could of the western lands he hoped to visit. Catlin traveled the frontier from 1830 to 1836, visiting 50 tribes west of the Mississippi, from present-day North Dakota to Oklahoma, creating an astonishing visual record of Native American life. He had only a short time to accomplish his goal—to capture with canvas & paint the essence of Indian life & culture. In that same year, the Indian Removal Act commenced the 12-year action that would remove the remaining Indians from land east of the Mississippi. Within a few years, the they would be decimated by smallpox; with in a few decades, the number of buffalo would drop from millions to a few thousand, & the Native Americans' high prairies would be crosshatched by the plow & the railroad.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

~ Pshán-shaw, Sweet-scented Grass, 12-year-old Daughter of Bloody Hand by George Catlin 1796-1872

George Catlin (American artist, 1796-1872) Pshán-shaw, Sweet-scented Grass, Twelve-year-old Daughter of Bloody Hand


The artist George Catlin (1796–1872), who based his entire body of work—including over 500 paintings done in the 1830s & several books recounting his travels—on the theory of the Vanishing American, provided a vivid description of the process at work: "In traversing the immense regions of the Classic West, the mind of a Philanthropist is filled to the brim with feelings of admiration; but to reach this country, one is obliged to descend from the light & glow of civilized atmosphere, through the different grades of civilization, which gradually sink to the most deplorable vice & darkness along our frontier; thence through the most pitiable misery & wretchedness of savage degradation, where the genius of natural liberty & independence have been blasted & destroyed by the contaminating vices & dissipations of civilized society. Through this dark & sunken vale of wretchedness one hurries as through a pestilence, until he gradually rises again into the proud & heroic elegance of savage society, in a state of pure & original nature, beyond the reach of civilized contamination … Even here, the predominant passions of the savage breast, of treachery & cruelty, are often found, yet restrained & frequently subdued by the noblest traits of honor & magnanimity,—a race of men who live & enjoy life & its luxuries, & practice its virtues, very far beyond the usual estimations of the world … From the first settlements of our Atlantic coast to the present day, the bane of this blasting frontier has regularly crowded upon them, from the northern to the southern extremities of our country, &, like the fire in a mountain, which destroys every thing where it passes, it has blasted & sunk them, & all but their names, into oblivion, wherever it has traveled."

New Jersey born George Catlin (1796-1872) is reknowned for his extensive travels across the American West, recording the lives of Native Americans. In 1818, Catlin practiced law in Connecticut & Pennsylvania, but he abandoned his practice in 1821 to pursue painting. Catlin enjoyed modest success painting portraits & miniatures, but he longed to be a history painter. In 1828, after seeing a delegation of western Indians in the east, he had wrote that he had found a subject, "on which to devote a whole life-time of enthusiasm." In 1830, Catlin made his initial pilgrimage to St. Louis to meet William Clark & learn from him all he could of the western lands he hoped to visit. Catlin traveled the frontier from 1830 to 1836, visiting 50 tribes west of the Mississippi, from present-day North Dakota to Oklahoma, creating an astonishing visual record of Native American life. He had only a short time to accomplish his goal—to capture with canvas & paint the essence of Indian life & culture. In that same year, the Indian Removal Act commenced the 12-year action that would remove the remaining Indians from land east of the Mississippi. Within a few years, the they would be decimated by smallpox; with in a few decades, the number of buffalo would drop from millions to a few thousand, & the Native Americans' high prairies would be crosshatched by the plow & the railroad.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

~ Ah'-kay-ee-pix-en, Woman Who Strikes Many by George Catlin 1796-1872

George Catlin (American artist, 1796-1872) Ah'-kay-ee-pix-en, Woman Who Strikes Many

The artist George Catlin (1796–1872), who based his entire body of work—including over 500 paintings done in the 1830s & several books recounting his travels—on the theory of the Vanishing American, provided a vivid description of the process at work: "In traversing the immense regions of the Classic West, the mind of a Philanthropist is filled to the brim with feelings of admiration; but to reach this country, one is obliged to descend from the light & glow of civilized atmosphere, through the different grades of civilization, which gradually sink to the most deplorable vice & darkness along our frontier; thence through the most pitiable misery & wretchedness of savage degradation, where the genius of natural liberty & independence have been blasted & destroyed by the contaminating vices & dissipations of civilized society. Through this dark & sunken vale of wretchedness one hurries as through a pestilence, until he gradually rises again into the proud & heroic elegance of savage society, in a state of pure & original nature, beyond the reach of civilized contamination … Even here, the predominant passions of the savage breast, of treachery & cruelty, are often found, yet restrained & frequently subdued by the noblest traits of honor & magnanimity,—a race of men who live & enjoy life & its luxuries, & practice its virtues, very far beyond the usual estimations of the world … From the first settlements of our Atlantic coast to the present day, the bane of this blasting frontier has regularly crowded upon them, from the northern to the southern extremities of our country, &, like the fire in a mountain, which destroys every thing where it passes, it has blasted & sunk them, & all but their names, into oblivion, wherever it has traveled."

New Jersey born George Catlin (1796-1872) is reknowned for his extensive travels across the American West, recording the lives of Native Americans. In 1818, Catlin practiced law in Connecticut & Pennsylvania, but he abandoned his practice in 1821 to pursue painting. Catlin enjoyed modest success painting portraits & miniatures, but he longed to be a history painter. In 1828, after seeing a delegation of western Indians in the east, he had wrote that he had found a subject, "on which to devote a whole life-time of enthusiasm." In 1830, Catlin made his initial pilgrimage to St. Louis to meet William Clark & learn from him all he could of the western lands he hoped to visit. Catlin traveled the frontier from 1830 to 1836, visiting 50 tribes west of the Mississippi, from present-day North Dakota to Oklahoma, creating an astonishing visual record of Native American life. He had only a short time to accomplish his goal—to capture with canvas & paint the essence of Indian life & culture. In that same year, the Indian Removal Act commenced the 12-year action that would remove the remaining Indians from land east of the Mississippi. Within a few years, the they would be decimated by smallpox; with in a few decades, the number of buffalo would drop from millions to a few thousand, & the Native Americans' high prairies would be crosshatched by the plow & the railroad.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Karl Bodmer (1809-1893) paints Missouria, Otoe, and Ponca Indians

Karl Bodmer (Swiss Artist, 1809-1893) lithograph of Missouria, Otoe, and Ponca Indians

From Europe to the Atlantic coast of America to the Pacific coast of America during the 17C-19C, settlers moved West encountering a variety of Indigenous Peoples on their journeys. Karl Bodmer (Swiss Artist, 1809-1893) developed a remarkable talent for drawing & painting while studying with his uncle, painter & engraver Johann Jacob Meyer. After further studies in Paris, he joined his brother on a sketching trip through Germany in 1832 where he met Prince Maximilian zu Weid. Maximilian, known for his natural history research in the coastal forests of Brazil, was searching for a professional artist to accompany him on his expedition to North America. Bodmer signed a contract with Maximilian &, 3 weeks later, they set sail for America. From 1833-1834, the two traveled up the Missouri River, retracing the 1805 journey of Lewis & Clark. On the expedition, Bodmer depicted some of the same characters that George Caitlin had painted just months before. Bodmer was the last artist able to paint the Mandan Indians in North Dakota before the fatal 1837 smallpox epidemic that nearly obliterated the tribe. He also painted portraits of the Sioux, Blackfeet, Hidatsa, & other tribes, while Maximilian conducted studies & made notes on the botany & zoology of the areas. Before the end of the journey, Bodmer had completed 81 paintings, illustrating Maximilians expedition. Each elegant painting displayed extremely detailed & accurate accounts of Indian ceremonies & everyday life. In 1843, Maximilian's lithographs were published in Travels in the Interior of America. 

Friday, November 8, 2019

Karl Bodmer (1809-1893) Encounters 19C Native American Traditions

Karl Bodmer (Swiss Artist, 1809-1893) Watercolor of an Assinboin Indian magic pile 

From Europe to the Atlantic coast of America to the Pacific coast of America during the 17C-19C, settlers moved West encountering a variety of Indigenous Peoples on their journeys. Karl Bodmer (Swiss Artist, 1809-1893) developed a remarkable talent for drawing & painting while studying with his uncle, painter & engraver Johann Jacob Meyer. After further studies in Paris, he joined his brother on a sketching trip through Germany in 1832 where he met Prince Maximilian zu Weid. Maximilian, known for his natural history research in the coastal forests of Brazil, was searching for a professional artist to accompany him on his expedition to North America. Bodmer signed a contract with Maximilian &, 3 weeks later, they set sail for America.

From 1833-1834, the two traveled up the Missouri River, retracing the 1805 journey of Lewis & Clark. On the expedition, Bodmer depicted some of the same characters that George Caitlin had painted just months before. Bodmer was the last artist able to paint the Mandan Indians in North Dakota before the fatal 1837 smallpox epidemic that nearly obliterated the tribe. He also painted portraits of the Sioux, Blackfeet, Hidatsa, & other tribes, while Maximilian conducted studies & made notes on the botany & zoology of the areas. Before the end of the journey, Bodmer had completed 81 paintings, illustrating Maximilians expedition. Each elegant painting displayed extremely detailed & accurate accounts of Indian ceremonies & everyday life. In 1843, Maximilian's lithographs were published in Travels in the Interior of America. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Indian Camp in California by Albert Bierstadt (German-born American painter, 1830-1902)


Albert Bierstadt (German-born American painter, 1830-1902) Indian camp in California (1866)

Matthew Biagell explains in his book Albert Bierstadt that,"Athough Bierstadt made probing studies of individual Indians during his travels in the West, he usually generalized their appearances & activities in his paintings. He placed them, as he placed European peasants in earlier works, in the middle distance, so that we witness their presence in a landscape setting rather than focus on their movements." Many of his landscapes including Native Americans are the western equivalent of his European generalized landscapes & reveals Bierstadt's consistent attitude toward subject matter regardless of its locale human subjects are engaged in seemingly unrelated activities. His paintings, bathed in a golden glow, often suggest nostalgia for a previous age when Native Americans were thought to have lived harmoniously with nature. Here they are not wily, wicked, or predatory, but are engaged instead in peaceful domestic industry. Works such as this are obviously part of the broad western European tradition of Arcadian scenes, but in its American version the tradition assumes a particular complexity & ambivalence. His painting including Natives often portray the nobility of the Indians before their contact with Europeans & subsequent debasement. Paintings displaying this attitude undoubtedly provided the public with the images it wanted to see, especially during the years Indians were systematically being driven from their lands. Suchromanticized paintings might also be considered retardataire; the Indian, noble or otherwise, no longer engaged many serious 19C writers after the 1850s, & precise anthropological & linguistic analyses of Indian tribes were already being included in the Pacific railroad reports by that time.

Albert Bierstadt (German-born American painter, 1830-1902) was best known for these lavish, sweeping landscapes of the American West. To paint the scenes, Bierstadt joined several journeys of the Westward Expansion. Bierstadt, was born in Solingen, Germany. He was still a toddler, when his family moved from Germany to New Bedford in Massachusetts. In 1853, he returned to Germany to study in Dusseldorf, where he refined his technical abilities by painting Alpine landscapes. After he returned to America in 1857, he joined an overland survey expedition traveling westward across the country. Along the route, he took countless photographs & made sketches & returned East to paint from them. He exhibited at the Boston Athenaeum from 1859-1864, at the Brooklyn Art Association from 1861-1879, & at the Boston Art Club from 1873-1880. A member of the National Academy of Design from 1860-1902, he kept a studio in the 10th Street Studio Building, New York City from 1861-1879. He was a member of the Century Association from 1862-1902, when he died.

Monday, November 4, 2019

~ Assiniboin Woman and Child by George Catlin 1796-1872

George Catlin (American artist, 1796-1872) Assiniboin Woman and Child

The artist George Catlin (1796–1872), who based his entire body of work—including over 500 paintings done in the 1830s & several books recounting his travels—on the theory of the Vanishing American, provided a vivid description of the process at work: "In traversing the immense regions of the Classic West, the mind of a Philanthropist is filled to the brim with feelings of admiration; but to reach this country, one is obliged to descend from the light & glow of civilized atmosphere, through the different grades of civilization, which gradually sink to the most deplorable vice & darkness along our frontier; thence through the most pitiable misery & wretchedness of savage degradation, where the genius of natural liberty & independence have been blasted & destroyed by the contaminating vices & dissipations of civilized society. Through this dark & sunken vale of wretchedness one hurries as through a pestilence, until he gradually rises again into the proud & heroic elegance of savage society, in a state of pure & original nature, beyond the reach of civilized contamination … Even here, the predominant passions of the savage breast, of treachery & cruelty, are often found, yet restrained & frequently subdued by the noblest traits of honor & magnanimity,—a race of men who live & enjoy life & its luxuries, & practice its virtues, very far beyond the usual estimations of the world … From the first settlements of our Atlantic coast to the present day, the bane of this blasting frontier has regularly crowded upon them, from the northern to the southern extremities of our country, &, like the fire in a mountain, which destroys every thing where it passes, it has blasted & sunk them, & all but their names, into oblivion, wherever it has traveled."

New Jersey born George Catlin (1796-1872) is reknowned for his extensive travels across the American West, recording the lives of Native Americans. In 1818, Catlin practiced law in Connecticut & Pennsylvania, but he abandoned his practice in 1821 to pursue painting. Catlin enjoyed modest success painting portraits & miniatures, but he longed to be a history painter. In 1828, after seeing a delegation of western Indians in the east, he had wrote that he had found a subject, "on which to devote a whole life-time of enthusiasm." In 1830, Catlin made his initial pilgrimage to St. Louis to meet William Clark & learn from him all he could of the western lands he hoped to visit. Catlin traveled the frontier from 1830 to 1836, visiting 50 tribes west of the Mississippi, from present-day North Dakota to Oklahoma, creating an astonishing visual record of Native American life. He had only a short time to accomplish his goal—to capture with canvas & paint the essence of Indian life & culture. In that same year, the Indian Removal Act commenced the 12-year action that would remove the remaining Indians from land east of the Mississippi. Within a few years, the they would be decimated by smallpox; with in a few decades, the number of buffalo would drop from millions to a few thousand, & the Native Americans' high prairies would be crosshatched by the plow & the railroad.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

~ Du-cór-re-a, Chief of the Tribe, and His Family by George Catlin 1796-1872

George Catlin (American artist, 1796-1872) Du-cór-re-a, Chief of the Tribe, and His Family

The artist George Catlin (1796–1872), who based his entire body of work—including over 500 paintings done in the 1830s & several books recounting his travels—on the theory of the Vanishing American, provided a vivid description of the process at work: "In traversing the immense regions of the Classic West, the mind of a Philanthropist is filled to the brim with feelings of admiration; but to reach this country, one is obliged to descend from the light & glow of civilized atmosphere, through the different grades of civilization, which gradually sink to the most deplorable vice & darkness along our frontier; thence through the most pitiable misery & wretchedness of savage degradation, where the genius of natural liberty & independence have been blasted & destroyed by the contaminating vices & dissipations of civilized society. Through this dark & sunken vale of wretchedness one hurries as through a pestilence, until he gradually rises again into the proud & heroic elegance of savage society, in a state of pure & original nature, beyond the reach of civilized contamination … Even here, the predominant passions of the savage breast, of treachery & cruelty, are often found, yet restrained & frequently subdued by the noblest traits of honor & magnanimity,—a race of men who live & enjoy life & its luxuries, & practice its virtues, very far beyond the usual estimations of the world … From the first settlements of our Atlantic coast to the present day, the bane of this blasting frontier has regularly crowded upon them, from the northern to the southern extremities of our country, &, like the fire in a mountain, which destroys every thing where it passes, it has blasted & sunk them, & all but their names, into oblivion, wherever it has traveled."

New Jersey born George Catlin (1796-1872) is reknowned for his extensive travels across the American West, recording the lives of Native Americans. In 1818, Catlin practiced law in Connecticut & Pennsylvania, but he abandoned his practice in 1821 to pursue painting. Catlin enjoyed modest success painting portraits & miniatures, but he longed to be a history painter. In 1828, after seeing a delegation of western Indians in the east, he had wrote that he had found a subject, "on which to devote a whole life-time of enthusiasm." In 1830, Catlin made his initial pilgrimage to St. Louis to meet William Clark & learn from him all he could of the western lands he hoped to visit. Catlin traveled the frontier from 1830 to 1836, visiting 50 tribes west of the Mississippi, from present-day North Dakota to Oklahoma, creating an astonishing visual record of Native American life. He had only a short time to accomplish his goal—to capture with canvas & paint the essence of Indian life & culture. In that same year, the Indian Removal Act commenced the 12-year action that would remove the remaining Indians from land east of the Mississippi. Within a few years, the they would be decimated by smallpox; with in a few decades, the number of buffalo would drop from millions to a few thousand, & the Native Americans' high prairies would be crosshatched by the plow & the railroad.