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Charles Bird King and his portraits/paintings of American Indian Chiefs

Updated on December 18, 2015

Hatne Hudjihini Eagle of Delight-Oteo tribe

Source

Charles Bird King (1785-1862), an American artist, is best known for doing portrait. He is especially notable for his portraiture of American Indian delegates who came to Washington for various reasons.

He was born in Newport, Rhode Island and the only child of Deborah Bird and Captain Zebulon King who fought in the Revolutionary War. The family moved west but near Marietta Ohio his father was killed and scalped by Indians. . Four year old Charles and his mother moved back to Newport.

Anacamegishca, Ojibwa Warrior

Source

Training

King went to New York when he was fifteen to study under Edward Savage, a portrait painter. At twenty he went to London to study under Benjamin West at the Royal Academy Later. he worked in Philadelphia, Baltimore and Richmond and eventually settled in Washington. After gaining a solid reputation he started his own studio and gallery. He made friends with such people as John Quincy Adams, John C. Calhoun, Henry Clay, James Monroe and Daniel Webster.

King apparently did his portraits in his studio in Washington and not actually on the frontier, the pictures are important as early documentation of the Indians. Other artist also painted some portraits for the collection. However, the majority  were by King. But only a portion of the Indians were Plains Indians.

Kee-shes-wa, Fox Chief

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Jack-O-Pea, Ojibwa Warrior

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Ojibwa Woman

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The Indian gallery

“As early as 1821, under the auspices of the War Department, an ‘Indian Gallery’ was established in Washington,” from Appendix to Bernard DeVoto’s Across the Wide Missouri. The book dates back to 1947, but still a good history of the fur trade on the frontier. 

Thomas McKinney held several positions in the government, including the Bureau of Indian Affairs. It was his influence that got King the contract to paint the Indians portraits. Some of the paintings that were destroyed were in McKinney’s lithographic collection and preserved in that form.

Little Crow, Sioux Warrior

Source

Style and Influence

King’s style was influenced by the Dutch school and he was also known to stay within the confines of the traditional styles he learned when he was young. The government commissioned him to do portraits of the Indians and also of celebrated war heroes. He is not well remembered, according to Wikipedia, because his work was not particularly innovative in a time when there were many good artists around. Also much of his Indian work was lost in a fire at the Smithsonian.

Tshusick, Ojibwa woman

Source

Chief Wapello, Musquakee Chief

Pictures

This article concentrates on his Indian work. For those interested in more information:

Viola, Herman J. The Legacy of Charles Bird King. 1976.

Sharitarish (Wicked Chief)

Petalesharo(Generous chief

Monchousia (White Plume)

Shaumonekusse (Prairie Wolf)

Red Jacket or Keeper Awake, Seneca War Chief

David Vann, Later treasuer of Cherokee nNation

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    • dahoglund profile image
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      Don A. Hoglund 4 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      prasetuio, except for people with special interests most people are probably unaware of the artist such as Charles Bird King. They did play an important role in documenting the life of the American Indians in the early days. Thank you for reading about him and commenting on my hub.

    • prasetio30 profile image

      prasetio30 4 years ago from malang-indonesia

      I have never heard about Charles Bird King. Thank you very much for writing and beautiful pictures here. Good job, uncle. Maybe, I would never know him if I don't read this hub. Voted up! useful, awesome, beautiful, interesting.

      Prasetio

    • dahoglund profile image
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      Don A. Hoglund 4 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Jane, thanks for visiting, commenting and sharing.

    • dahoglund profile image
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      Don A. Hoglund 4 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      deborah, yes, they are. Thanks for visiting and commenting.

    • dahoglund profile image
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      Don A. Hoglund 4 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      torrilynn, considering how hard it was to get around in those days, these painters did a real service of information in addition to contributing to the world of art. Thanks for reading, commenting and voting.

    • dahoglund profile image
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      Don A. Hoglund 4 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Hi Peggy, We probably would not know much about the Indians if it were not for the artists who documented them. I appreciate your comments on this hub and your sharing it.

    • profile image

      Jane Holmes 4 years ago

      Another great hub! Very interesting and good information. Voted up, pined and shared!

    • Deborah-Diane profile image

      Deborah-Diane 4 years ago from Orange County, California

      Wow! These are amazing paintings. Thanks for sharing.

    • torrilynn profile image

      torrilynn 4 years ago

      dahoglund,

      I was always interesting in who were the painters of Indian Chiefs

      I remember seeing them in history books back when I was in high school.

      useful information. Voted up

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 4 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Don,

      You are correct in that we learn much from viewing art. Thanks for introducing me to the artist Charles Bird King. Too bad that some of his art was lost in a fire in the Smithsonian. Voted up, useful, interesting and will share.

    • dahoglund profile image
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      Don A. Hoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      KoffeeKlatch Gals

      Thanks for commenting. We get so many stereotypes of Indians both good and bad, I think some history is needed.

    • dahoglund profile image
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      Don A. Hoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      jessicliteee

      Thanks for visiting.

    • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

      Susan Haze 6 years ago from Sunny Florida

      I like all of the portraits but especially the Wicked Chief. Great history about a little known artist.

    • profile image

      jessicilieee 7 years ago

      Very good thanks

    • dahoglund profile image
      Author

      Don A. Hoglund 7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Glad you stopped by to read it.I do think artists like this helped preserve a facet of America that might have been lost otherwise. Thanks for the comment.

    • theindianblues profile image

      theindianblues 7 years ago from Some where on the Globe

      Amazing topic and pictures! I enjoyed reading the hub and learned about a great artist. Thanks dahoglund for sharing such a nice hub.

    • dahoglund profile image
      Author

      Don A. Hoglund 7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Glad you liked it.There is so much knowledge about Indians that would be lost but for the artists.I'm working on doing some more hubs on artists who portrayed thefrontier and Indians.Thanks for your comment.

    • BkCreative profile image

      BkCreative 7 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      Wow - what great information. Glad you included pictures as well - and they do look familiar - now I have some background. Rated way up!

    • dahoglund profile image
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      Don A. Hoglund 7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Thanks for commenting. I think thee artists contributed to the knowledge of our history and culture by their paintings.

    • Coolmon2009 profile image

      Coolmon2009 7 years ago from Texas, USA

      Thanks for the introduction to Charles Bird King. I have seen some of these images before, but never knew who produced them. Good Article

    • dahoglund profile image
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      Don A. Hoglund 7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Thanks for commenting. I'm pleased that you enjoyed it.

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      soumyasrajan 7 years ago from Mumbai India and often in USA

      Enjoyed those portraits very much dahoglund! He was quite impressive. Your article is great!

    • dahoglund profile image
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      Don A. Hoglund 7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Medkh9

      Thanks for visiting and commenting.

    • dahoglund profile image
      Author

      Don A. Hoglund 7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      suziecat7

      Thanks for commenting.He was a good artist.I think he left a legazy worth preserving.I hope you enjoy the prints.

    • profile image

      Medkh9 7 years ago

      i like your hub its really interesting

    • suziecat7 profile image

      suziecat7 7 years ago from Asheville, NC

      I came across some of his prints at a yard sale. I had them framed. Very good artist. Thanks for all the information.

    • dahoglund profile image
      Author

      Don A. Hoglund 7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Robwrite

      Probably most people haven't. Partly because his work was less dramatic than some artists and photographers of the frontier. However, I thought he was worth writing about because he predated much of the frontier art. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • Tom Whitworth profile image

      Tom Whitworth 7 years ago from Moundsville, WV

      dahoglund,

      I know how you feel. I go back and read my old Hubs, and constantly find errors. I just found another in a comment where I spelled "to" as "tro".

    • Robwrite profile image

      Rob 7 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY

      I'd never heard of this guy before. Thanks for the information.

    • dahoglund profile image
      Author

      Don A. Hoglund 7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Tom.

      You caught me in a dumb error. His father's name was King, not Bird.It would be nice to have a proofreader.I'll correct that.

      Thanks for commenting and setting me straight.

    • Tom Whitworth profile image

      Tom Whitworth 7 years ago from Moundsville, WV

      dahoglund,

      Great informational Hub on King. In your research did you ever hear how he got the name King instead of Bird?

    • dahoglund profile image
      Author

      Don A. Hoglund 7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Thank you for your complimentary comment.

    • creativeone59 profile image

      benny Faye Douglass 7 years ago from Gold Canyon, Arizona

      Thank you so much dahoglund, for this very interesting and educational hub on Charles Bird King and the Indian cheifs potraits. thankmyou for sharing it. Godspeed. creativeone59