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George Catlin: American Indian Portraits
American Indian portraits by the American artist George Catlin (1796-1872). It will include major loans from the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington.
Catlin was an artist, writer and showman who documented Native American peoples and their cultures to serve as a record of what he believed to be a passing way of life. What he created is regarded as one of the most important records of indigenous peoples ever made. Catlin was not the only artist to embark on such a project in the nineteenth century, but his record is the most extensive still in existence.
Catlin, who had little formal training, began his artistic career as a painter of portrait miniatures. In the 1830s he made five trips in the western part of the United States before the Native American peoples of those regions had been subsumed into the legal boundaries of the United States. He assembled the materials and work he produced, during and inspired by the five trips, into his ‘Indian Gallery’ which comprised some 500 portraits, pictures and indigenous artefacts.
Catlin’s entrepreneurial spirit led him to tour the ‘Indian Gallery’ in the eastern states from 1837-39, but he failed in selling it to the United States government. He then went on to tour the gallery in Europe for the next ten years including exhibitions held in Great Britain, France and Belgium. The works will be displayed to evoke the sense of spectacle Catlin created during the time of his tour and by doing so will demonstrate how Catlin constructed a particular image of Native Americans in the minds of his audience.
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Venue: National Portrait Gallery
→ Charing Cross 6 min walk
→ Charing Cross 3 min walk
→ Leicester Square 3 min walk