George Catlin - He Understood the Culture ...
George Catlin was an American painter, author and traveler who specialized in portraits of Native Americans in the Old West. His images are iconic portrayals.
I love a people who have always made me feel welcome to the best they had.
I love a people who are honest without laws, who have no jails and no poorhouses.
I love a people who keep the commandments without ever having read them or heard them preached from the pulpit.
I love a people who never swear, who never take the name of God in vain.
I love a people who love their neighbor as they love themselves.
I love a people who worship God without a bible, for I believe that God loves them also.
I love a people whose religion is all the same, and who are free from religious animosity.
I love a people who have never raised a hand against me, or stole my property, where there was no law to punish them for either.
I love a people who have never fought a battle with white men, except on their own ground.
I love and don't fear mankind where God has made and left them, for there they are children.
I love a people who live and keep what is their own without locks and keys.
I love a people who do the best they can.
And oh, how I love a people who don't live for the love of money.
George Catlin (1796-1872) was a world famous Indian artist who lived among the Native Americans for years and visited forty-eight tribes.
An excerpt from Wikipedia...
In 1841, George 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 and Central America and later returned for further exploration in the Far West. The record of these later years is contained in Last Rambles amongst the Indians of the Rocky Mountains and the Andes (1868) and My Life among the Indians (ed. by N. G. Humphreys, 1909). In 1872, Catlin traveled to Washington, D.C. at the invitation of Joseph Henry, the first secretary of the Smithsonian. Until his death later that year, Catlin worked in a studio in the Smithsonian “Castle.” Harrison’s widow donated the original Indian Gallery—more than 500 works—to the Smithsonian in 1879.
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.
George Catlin (1796-1872) journeyed west five times in the 1830s to paint the Plains Indians and their way of life. Convinced that westward expansion spelled certain disaster for native peoples, he viewed his Indian Gallery as a way "to rescue from oblivion their primitive looks and customs."
Catlin was the first artist to record the Plains Indians in their own territories. He admired them as the embodiment of the Enlightenment ideal of "natural man," living in harmony with nature. But the more than 500 paintings in the Indian Gallery also reveal the fateful encounter of two different cultures in a frontier region undergoing dramatic transformation.
When Catlin first traveled west in 1830, the United States Congress had just passed the Indian Removal Act, requiring Indians in the Southeast to resettle west of the Mississippi River. This vast forced migration—as well as smallpox epidemics and continuing incursions from trappers, miners, explorers, and settlers—created pressures on Indian cultures to adapt or perish. Seeing the devastation of many tribes, Catlin came to regard the frontier as a region of corruption. He portrayed the nobility of these still-sovereign peoples, but he was aware that he painted in sovereignty's twilight.
By the late 1830s and 1840s, Catlin began displaying the Indian Gallery in eastern capitals and in Europe, an advocate for the Indian way of life. Yet the challenge of keeping his collection together and making ends meet led him to questionable strategies. He courted audiences by presenting real Indians enacting war dances. In effect, Catlin created the first Wild West show, with all its compromising sensationalism and exploitation.
Catlin lobbied the U.S. government for patronage throughout his career, hoping Congress would purchase the Indian Gallery as a legacy for future generations. Disappointed in this goal, Catlin went bankrupt in 1852. A Philadelphia industrialist paid Catlin's debts and acquired the Indian Gallery, and soon after Catlin's death, the paintings were donated to the Smithsonian. Today Catlin's Indian Gallery is recognized as a great cultural treasure, offering rare insight into native cultures and a crucial chapter in American history.
To find out more about George Catlin and art of the Old West, check out some of these selections:
If Native American Indian pieces are of interest for either buying or collecting, become familiar with them. Visit museums to study the various forms, materials, tribal affiliations and designs. Go to art shows that showcase Native American artisans. Antique shows are also a good venue - go through the booths of vendors selling these items. If they are passionate about what they have, they will answer your questions. And, of course, inter-tribal powwows are excellent venues to look and ask.
You can also go to The Indian Arts and Crafts Association for a listing of registered and certified Native American Artisans.
Above all, any art form being marketed as a genuine Native American handcrafted item must legally be just that. The spirit of the law is that any artwork or craft fashioned by a Native American, the artisan must be a member of an Indian Tribe, and their membership has been verified and certified.
These Native American artisans are practicing their art perhaps as a livelihood. And, through their art, they are keeping their culture, history and spirituality alive.
Native American Arts has free e-books covering the subjects of Collecting and Fraudulence that are excellent!
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