Biography of George Catlin (1796-1872)

Traveller, writer and American painter, born in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. In 1823 he/she gave up their occupation as a lawyer and was established as a portraitist in Philadelphia, art of which he/she was self-taught. From 1824 until 1829, Catlin painted portraits in Washington and Albany, New York. After attending a meeting with a tribal delegation of native Americans in the far West, he/she was anxious to collect in a lasting document of individuals and customs of the native Americans that otherwise would be lost; and for this purpose he/she made several trips West of America accompanied by his wife, the first of them around 1832, where he/she earned the confidence of the Indians, many of whom fear had to die if they drew them or painted; the result were several published volumes and hundreds of portraits of native Americans and scenes of villages: scenes of religious rituals, games, native Americans working.

White Nuba, Chief of the Iowas (oil on canvas, 1845). National Gallery of art (Washington).

To Catlin it obsessed the fate of the native American culture, so it encouraged the popular interest in this culture through the public display of the work carried out during his travels and by means of present groups of native Americans in hearings in the United States and Europe. He/She also came to paint groups of indigenous people of the South America and Central. Much of his work is displayed in the Catlin Gallery at the National Gallery of Art and the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, and the American Museum of Natural History in New York City has about 700 of his drawings. Catlin also wrote and illustrated Manners, Customs, and Conditions of the North American Indians (published in two volumes in 1841), Catlin completo North American Indian Portfolio: Hunting, Rocky Mountains and Prairies of America (1844) and My Life Among the Indians (1867). His work, therefore, is a valuable source of historical information. George Catlin died in Jersey City, New Jersey, December 23 at the age of 76.


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Literature of United States of America.