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Theodore Burr Catlin, in Indian Costume

1840-1841 George Catlin Born: Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania 1796 Died: Jersey City, New Jersey 1872 oil on canvas 50 1/8 x 40 in. (127.3 x 101.7 cm) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of Mrs. Joseph Harrison, Jr. 1985.66.386,323 Not currently on view


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George Catlin finished his travels through the American West in 1836, and by December 1839 had set sail for England. He planned to exhibit the Indian Gallery in hopes of attracting a wealthy buyer for his collection, and his works appeared in London’s Egyptian Hall in 1840. Over time, he expanded the gallery to include actors, who wore costumes from Catlin’s own collection and performed tableaux vivants---staged reenactments of Indian songs, dances, and war scenes. This portrait shows Catlin’s nephew dressed for a performance. The artist concentrated on capturing the young man’s features, leaving the costume unfinished; he was always interested in the skin tones of his Indian subjects, and it appears that he worked to modify his nephew’s coloring to make him look more “authentic.”

Keywords

Dress - ethnic - Indian dress

Portrait male - Catlin, Theodore Burr

painting

paint - oil

fabric - canvas