Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Before Buffalo Bill

Long before "Buffalo Bill" Cody took his Wild West show to Europe, there was a man - an artist - who brought Native Americans to Europe. His name was George Catlin. (1796-1872)

Catlin was born in the Pennsylvania. As a young person, Catlin was fascinated by the Native American artifacts he found. Although Catlin would train as a lawyer, he had drawn and etched since childhood. It would be the combination of painting and curiosity that lead to the passion of his life - chronicling the lives of Native Americans. In 1823, he closed his law practice to make a career in painting.

He traveled all the way to the North Dakota/Montana border visiting and painting 18 tribes along the way. When Catlin returned to the East, he had a gallery of 500 paintings of Native American portraits and culture.

Catlin toured with his gallery and collection of artifact. By 1842, he was exhibiting in England and then in the Louvre in Paris. Catlin was accompanied by members of the Ojibbeways and later the Ioways tribes.

As a viewer, not only could you see the portraiture, but also you could interview the native people through an interpreter. Can you imagine the sensational stir this group created some 30 years before Buffalo Bill?


  1. Wow! That had to be exciting. I wonder what the natives thought of all that. GH

  2. It must have been pretty exciting for everyone. Gil