George Catlin (American artist, 1796-1872) Woman and Child, Showing How the Heads of Children are Flattened
As a child growing up in Pennsylvania, George Catlin (American artist, 1796-1872) spent many hours looking for American Indian artifacts. His fascination with Native Americans was kindled by his mother, who told him stories of the Western Frontier & how she was captured by a tribe when she was a young girl. Following a brief career as a lawyer, he produced 2 major collections of paintings of American Indians & published a series of books chronicling his travels among native peoples. Claiming his interest in America’s "vanishing race" was sparked by a visiting American Indian delegation in Philadelphia, he set out to record America’s native people. Catlin began his journey in 1830, when he accompanied General William Clark on a diplomatic mission up the Mississippi River into Native American territory. During later trips along the Arkansas, Red & Mississippi rivers, as well as visits to Florida & the Great Lakes, he produced more than 500 paintings.
When Catlin returned east in 1838, he assembled his Indian Gallery, & began delivering public lectures. In 1841, Catlin published Manners, Customs, and Condition of the North American Indians, in two volumes, with about 300 engravings. Three years later he published 25 plates, entitled Catlin’s North American Indian Portfolio, and, in 1848, Eight Years’ Travels and Residence in Europe. From 1852 to 1857, he traveled through South & Central America and later returned for further exploration in the Far West as recorded in Last Rambles amongst the Indians of the Rocky Mountains & the Andes (1868) & My Life among the Indians (1909). The nearly complete surviving set of Catlin’s Indian Gallery painted in the 1830s is now part of the Smithsonian American Art Museum's collection. Some 700 sketches are in the American Museum of Natural History, New York City.