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Mah-tó-he-ha, Old Bear, a Medicine Man

1832 George Catlin Born: Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania 1796 Died: Jersey City, New Jersey 1872 oil on canvas 29 x 24 in. (73.7 x 60.9 cm) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of Mrs. Joseph Harrison, Jr. 1985.66.129 Smithsonian American Art Museum
2nd Floor, South Wing


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At twelve o'clock, “having used the whole of the fore-part of the day at his toilette,” George Catlin wrote, Old Bear arrived at the artist’s lodge “bedaubed and streaked with paints of various colours, with bear's grease and charcoal, with medicine-pipes in his hands and foxes tails attached to his heels [and] with a train of his own profession, who seated themselves around him . . . He took his position in the middle of the room, waving his eagle calumets in each hand, and singing his medicine-song . . . looking me full in the face until I completed his picture, which I painted at full length.” The artist painted Old Bear at a Mandan village in 1832. (Catlin, Letters and Notes, vol. 1, no. 15, 1841; reprint 1973)

Keywords

Dress - ethnic - Indian dress

Ethnic - Indian - Mandan

Portrait male - Old Bear - full length

painting

paint - oil

fabric - canvas

metal - aluminum - support added