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Om-pah-tón-ga, Big Elk, a Famous Warrior

1832 George Catlin Born: Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania 1796 Died: Jersey City, New Jersey 1872 oil on canvas 29 x 24 in. (73.7 x 60.9 cm) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of Mrs. Joseph Harrison, Jr. 1985.66.114 Smithsonian American Art Museum
2nd Floor, East Wing


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A warrior of the Omaha tribe, Big Elk sat for his portrait, according to George Catlin, “with his tomahawk in his hand, and face painted black, for war.” Catlin probably painted this image at Fort Leavenworth (in today’s Kansas) in 1832. Big Elk also sat for artist Charles Bird King (1785-1862) some years earlier in Washington. (Catlin, Letters and Notes, vol. 2, no. 34, 1841; reprint 1973)

Keywords

Dress - accessory - jewelry

Dress - ethnic - Indian dress

Ethnic - Indian - Omaha

Object - weapon - axe

Portrait male - Big Elk - full length

painting

paint - oil

fabric - canvas

metal - aluminum - support added