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Indian Family Alarmed at the Approach of a Prairie Fire

1846-1848 George Catlin Born: Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania 1796 Died: Jersey City, New Jersey 1872 oil on canvas 20 x 27 3/8 in. (50.8 x 69.4 cm) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of Mrs. Joseph Harrison, Jr. 1985.66.595 Not currently on view

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“The prairies burning form some of the most beautiful scenes that are to be witnessed in this country, and also some of the most sublime. Every acre of these vast prairies (being covered for hundreds and hundreds of miles, with a crop of grass, which dies and dries in the fall) burns over during the fall or early in the spring, leaving the ground of a black and doleful colour . . . There are many modes by which the fire is communicated to them, both by white men and by Indians---par accident; and yet many more where it is voluntarily done for the purpose of getting a fresh crop of grass, for the grazing of their horses, and also for easier travelling during the next summer, when there will be no old grass to lie upon the prairies, entangling the feet of man and horse, as they are passing over them.” (Catlin, Letters and Notes, vol. 2, no. 33, 1841; reprint 1973)


Architecture Exterior - domestic - teepee

Disaster - fire

Ethnic - Indian

Figure group - family

Landscape - plain



paint - oil

fabric - canvas

metal - aluminum - support added