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Elk and Buffalo Grazing among Prairie Flowers, Texas

1846-1848 George Catlin Born: Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania 1796 Died: Jersey City, New Jersey 1872 oil on canvas 19 5/8 x 27 1/2 in. (49.7 x 70.0 cm) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of Mrs. Joseph Harrison, Jr. 1985.66.580 Not currently on view


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During his travels through the western frontier, George Catlin saw the incredible numbers of buffalo that lived on the Plains. He called them “noble animals,” and understood that overhunting in the West would destroy them, “leaving these beautiful green fields a vast and idle waste.” He saw them “grazing on the plains of the country to which they appropriately belong.” “Their colour is a dark brown,” Catlin wrote, “but changing very much as the season varies from warm to cold; their hair or fur, from its great length in the winter and spring, and exposure to the weather, turning quite light, and almost to a jet black, when the winter coat is shed off, and a new growth is shooting out.” (Catlin, Letters and Notes, vol. 1, no. 31, 1841; reprint 1973)

Keywords

Animal - buffalo

Animal - deer

Landscape - plain

Landscape - Texas

Western

painting

paint - oil

fabric - canvas

metal - aluminum - support added