George Catlin Exhibition Opens on Sept. 25 at Sid Richardson Museum

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George Catlin was America’s most influential 19th century painter of American Indians. His paintings on loan from the National Gallery of Art illustrate the cultures of American Indians living west of the Mississippi in the 1830s.

George Catlin was America's most influential 19th century painter of American Indians.

The Sid Richardson Museum will present “Take Two: George Catlin Revisits the West” from Thursday, Sept. 25, 2014, through Sunday, May 31, 2015.

Driven by his lifelong mission to create a record of all Indian cultures in the Americas for future generations, George Catlin (1796-1872) was America’s most influential 19th century painter of American Indians. He completed more than 1,100 paintings and drawings of everyday life of Indians that included buffalo hunts, dances, games, amusements, rituals, portraits, and religious ceremonies.

The 17 paintings in the exhibition portraying eight American Indian tribes are from Catlin’s Cartoon Collection on loan from the Paul Mellon Collection at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. A rare deluxe edition of the most famous book published in the 19th century on the American Indian, Catlin’s “Letters and Notes on the Manners, Customs, and Condition of the North American Indians,” and two of Catlin’s American Indian portfolios will be on loan from a private collection.

The exhibition includes the Caddo, Comanche and Kiowa tribes (Texas tribes that Catlin encountered in the Arkansas Territory) and the Cheyenne, Mandan, Ojibwa, Pawnee and Sioux Plains Indian tribes.    

“Buffalo Hunt,” a bronze sculpture by Charles M. Russell (1824-1926), modeled in 1905 (cast # unknown, ca.1928), will also be on loan from a private collection. Both Russell and Catlin returned to the theme of the buffalo, and particularly buffalo hunts, repeatedly in their art.

“We are delighted that our first loan exhibition from the National Gallery of Art features a selection from George Catlin’s Cartoon Collection,” said Mary Burke, director of the Sid Richardson Museum. “Thirteen of the works have never been exhibited in Texas.”

“Catlin’s art is a natural fit for our museum, since Charles Russell and Frederic Remington, two of the most prominent artists in our permanent collection, also devoted themselves to Western themes, with a great awareness of what was unfolding in the West during their lifetime,” said Burke. “Catlin, who recorded the cultural life of the Native Americans he encountered on his travels west of the Mississippi in the 1830s, painted anticipating a time in the future when the manners and customs of the American Indian would be lost. Remington and Russell, who depicted life in the post-Civil War American West, painted with a sense of nostalgia for a West that was then passing or had already passed.”

“The National Gallery of Art is very pleased to join with the Sid Richardson Museum in presenting an important group of paintings by George Catlin, one of the first artists to record the appearance and customs of Native Americans living in the West,” said Earl A. Powell III, director, National Gallery of Art. “We are especially pleased that the paintings will remain on view through the school year, providing many opportunities for educational programming.”

The guest curator for “Take Two” is Brian W. Dippie, Ph.D., professor emeritus of history at the University of Victoria, British Columbia. Dr. Dippie is a specialist in the history of Western American art and has published extensively on George Catlin.

“Catlin was the most influential American Indian painter of the 19th century,” Dr. Dippie said, “because he showed Indian life in Indian country—not just portraits, but in fact scenes of buffalo hunts, village life, dances, and amusements— that he had witnessed. He was a participant-observer. His pictorial history is the most complete collection of paintings that show Native American cultures in the West in the 1830s."

Catlin visited 48 Indian tribes in the 1830s and completed some 500 paintings known as the Indian Gallery. He had to forfeit the Indian Gallery to industrialist Joseph Harrison in 1852 to pay off his creditors. He then started working on what became known as his second Indian Gallery, which he referred to as his Cartoon Collection, explaining that the paintings were preliminary.

The title of this exhibition, “Take Two: George Catlin Revisits the West,” refers to Catlin’s recreation of his first Indian Gallery. Relying on his memory of experiences with the American Indians in the 1830s, he drew from images in his first Indian Gallery, adding new subjects during the 1850s and 1860s, until he completed his second Indian Gallery of more than 600 paintings.

Admission is free to the Sid Richardson Museum, which is open daily except for major holidays at 309 Main Street in Sundance Square in downtown Fort Worth. For information, go to http://www.sidrichardsonmuseum.org, or call 817.332.6554.

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