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Beautiful Prairie Bluffs, Upper Mississippi

1835-1836 George Catlin Born: Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania 1796 Died: Jersey City, New Jersey 1872 oil on canvas 19 1/2 x 27 1/2 in. (49.6 x 69.9 cm) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of Mrs. Joseph Harrison, Jr. 1985.66.329 Not currently on view

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When George Catlin made his first trips up the Missouri River in 1830 and 1832, he was enraptured by the landscape. Though he had worked as a portraitist in Philadelphia and originally intended to paint Native Americans themselves, he felt compelled to depict their prairies, rivers, and hills as well. Catlin wrote: “There is no more beautiful prairie country in the world, than that which is to be seen in this vicinity . . . The surface of the country is gracefully and slightly undulating, like the swells of the retiring ocean after a heavy storm.” He was no less captivated by the landscape on his trip up the Mississippi in 1835. In the prairie bluffs seen here, Catlin captured the same “ocean swells” of rolling hills he had seen and enjoyed earlier. (Catlin, Letters and Notes, vol. 2, no. 32, 1841; reprint 1973)


Landscape - plain

Landscape - river - Mississippi River

Landscape - United States



paint - oil

fabric - canvas

metal - aluminum - support added