Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Face to Face: The Medicine Man & The Artist George Catlin

George Catlin, Mah-tó-he-ha, Old Bear, a Mandan Medicine Man, 1832, oil on canvas, Smithsonian American Art Museum

George Caitlin wrote of the day he painted this Medicine Man, "At twelve o'clock, “having used the whole of the fore-part of the day at his toilette,” George Catlin wrote, Old Bear arrived at the artist’s lodge “bedaubed and streaked with paints of various colours, with bear's grease and charcoal, with medicine-pipes in his hands and foxes tails attached to his heels [and] with a train of his own profession, who seated themselves around him . . . He took his position in the middle of the room, waving his eagle calumets in each hand, and singing his medicine-song . . . looking me full in the face until I completed his picture, which I painted at full length.” The artist painted Old Bear at a Mandan village in 1832. (George Catlin, Letters and Notes, vol. 1, no. 15, 1841; reprint 1973)