December 6, 2007

George Catlin 1796-1872

I was reading some history books when I happened to come across quite an interesting 19th Century painter by the name of George Catlin. His story intrigued me....He was a lawyer from Philadelphia in the 1800s who decided to quit his practice to become a full time artist and documentor. He had a fascination with the 'Vanishing Race' of the North American Indians, after visiting an American Indian delegation in Philly, and set out to record the appearance and customs of these native people.
So he traveled all over North America, searching for remote tribes not yet discovered by European settlers, accompaning General William Clark(of Lewis and Clark fame) up and down the Mississippi, the Missouri, Arkansas, and Red Rivers, also to Florida and the Great Lakes up North, basically all over. He did this adventure and travel for years, making peace with Indians and painting their life and culture.
He then travelled all over Europe exhibiting over 600 paintings in a traveling Indian Gallery where he'd deliver public lectures in places like London, Brussels, and Paris. The nearly complete surviving set of Catlin’s first 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. I also stumbled upon a dozen or so of his paintings in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. They're pretty detailed and amazing. But did I happen to mention the best part? Aside from Living in Philadelphia to Practice law, he was born and raised in our hometown of Wilkes-Barre, PA, the town of Luzerne, to be exact. Shouldn't there at least be a statue or plaque in his honor? Is there one I don't know about? *posted by Jaguarman

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