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Buffalo Bulls in a Wallow

1837-1839 George Catlin Born: Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania 1796 Died: Jersey City, New Jersey 1872 oil on canvas 24 x 29 in. (60.9 x 73.7 cm) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of Mrs. Joseph Harrison, Jr. 1985.66.425 Not currently on view


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“In the heat of summer,” George Catlin wrote, “these huge animals, which no doubt, suffer very much with the great profusion of their long and shaggy hair or fur, often graze on the low grounds in the prairies, where there is a little stagnant water lying amongst the grass, and the ground underneath being saturated with it, is soft, into which the enormous bull, lowered down upon one knee, will plunge his horns, and at last his head, driving up the earth, and soon making an excavation in the ground, into which the water filters from amongst the grass, forming for him in a few moments, a cool and comfortable bath, into which he plunges like a hog in his mire . . . In this delectable laver, he throws himself flat upon his side, and forcing himself violently around, with his horns and his huge hump on his shoulders presented to the sides, he ploughs up the ground by his rotary motion, sinking himself deeper and deeper in the ground, continually enlarging his pool, in which he at length becomes nearly immersed; and the water and mud about him mixed into a complete mortar, which changes his colour, and drips in streams from every part of him as he rises up upon his feet, a hideous monster of mud and ugliness, too frightful and too eccentric to be described!” (Catlin, Letters and Notes, vol. 1, no. 31, 1841; reprint 1973)

Keywords

Animal - buffalo

Landscape - United States

Landscape - water

Western

painting

paint - oil

fabric - canvas

metal - aluminum - support added