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Másh-kee-wet, a Great Dandy

1831 George Catlin Born: Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania 1796 Died: Jersey City, New Jersey 1872 oil on canvas 21 1/8 x 16 1/2 in. (53.5 x 42.0 cm) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of Mrs. Joseph Harrison, Jr. 1985.66.223 Not currently on view


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Before George Catlin began his extensive travels in the West, he spent time in eastern cities, where he often saw visiting delegations of Native Americans and was painted their portraits. Nine members of a Winnebago delegation, including He Who Breaks the Bushes and He Who Moistens the Wood, sat for him in Washington, D.C., in 1828. Three years later, also in the capital, the artist painted Menominee and Seneca delegations, including a portrait of the Menominee Másh-kee-wet, whom the artist called in his 1848 Catalogue, a “great beau, or dandy.” In the late 1820s, Catlin was still a conventional portrait painter who was looking for, as he later wrote, “some branch or enterprise of the art, on which to devote a whole life-time of enthusiasm,” and he found his “enterprise” in the delegations of Indians who came east. He thought them “arrayed and equipped in all their classic beauty . . . exactly for the painter’s palette!” (Catlin, Letters and Notes , vol. 1, no. 1, 1841; reprint 1973)

Keywords

Ethnic - Indian - Menominee

Portrait male - Mash Kee Wet

painting

paint - oil

fabric - canvas

metal - aluminum - support added