ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Remembering the American West Through Art

Updated on May 13, 2020

Mah-To-Toh-Pa, Four Bears 1832

Second Chief, Four Bears 1832
Second Chief, Four Bears 1832 | Source

.Mr. and Mrs. George Catlin

George Catlin
George Catlin
Clara Bartlett Catlin
Clara Bartlett Catlin

George Catlin

George was born in 1796, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. His father was Putnam Catlin (1764-1842 and Mary "Polly" Sutton (1770-1844. As a young boy, George hunted the farm for Indian artifacts he could find. His mother used to tell him the story of when the Iroquois Indians captured her and his grandmother after the massacre of the Battle of Wyoming, Pennsylvania. Fortunately, they were returned unharmed later. This could have been the catalyst that prompted George to learn all he could about the Native Americans.

George was small of stature weighing 135 pounds, standing 5'8: but what he went on to accomplish made him a giant among artists capturing the picturesque lives of the American Natives. George was a dreamer.

After his education, he did work as a lawyer but couldn't dismiss his fascination with Native Americans. But the call of the west prompted him to follow is quest painting the Native Indians, so he moved to St. Louis to set up his base of operations. Although self-taught as an artist, George had empathy for the Indians, and it would show in his paintings. His goal was to visit fifty tribes to capture their cultures, music, and customs.

Starting in 1830, he began painting the Native Americans and their villages. After accumulating hundreds of paintings along with artifacts, he returned east for exhibitions in Pittsburg, Cleveland, and New York. He attempted to sell his collection to the U.S. government but was unsuccessful even though Daniel Webster said it was more important than even some recent discoveries of the states.

In 1839 he toured Europe, Brussels, and Paris. Although critics praised his work, he was not earning enough to settle his debts.

In 1852 he was forced to sell his original Indian Gallery consisting of over 600 paintings. The industrialist, Joseph Harrison, bought his collection and stored it in a warehouse in Philadelphia as security. For the last twenty years of his life, George tried to recreate part of his original collection, calling it "Cartoon Collection."

George would spend his life trying to recreate his original Indian Gallery. Because of his dedication, passion, and wisdom in preserving the lives of the American Indians, we are left with his legacy.

Mary "Polly" Catlin, Mother of George Catlin

Mary "Polly" Catlin
Mary "Polly" Catlin | Source
Mandan Medicine Man
Mandan Medicine Man
Sioux Mother
Sioux Mother
Mandan Village
Mandan Village

Working at the Smithsonian

In 1872, George went back to Washington at the invitation by Joseph Henry, the first secretary of the Smithsonian. George had a studio at the Smithsonian and would work there until his death in 1872. Throughout his career, he was both heralded and criticized for his paintings. Some considered them "primitive" and not entirely professional. Yet today, he is credited with giving us a perfect record of the American Natives before they were lost to history.

While in London, George even spent time in Debtors Prison, and his brother-in-law bailed him out and took George and his daughters back to America. It was fortunate he was able to work at the Smithsonian until his death.

In 1879, Harrison's widow donated his original Indian Gallery of 500 works and artifacts to the Smithsonian which is now part of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Other artifacts are in the Natural Museum of Natural History, New York City. Other collections are housed in the University of Pennsylvania Museum, and a few are in the collection at the Huntington Library, San Marino, California.

In 1965, Paul Mellon donated over 300 paintings he had purchased to the National Gallery of Art.

Although there are several books both by Catlin and others, one of the best and as a coffee-table book, is the book George Catlin and His Indian Gallery. This 288-page book is full of superb illustrations, and they are on thick paper worth collecting. Its a book showing the vivid colors George used in his paintings.

Other Artists of the American West

Other artists were also famous like Catlin, but none captured the energy of the American Indians. Some of those include Edward S. Curtis, Albert Bierstadt, Thomas Moran, Frederick Remington, and Charles Bird King. All of them were famous for their individual skills and should not be forgotten.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)