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Prairie Bluffs at Sunrise, near the Mouth of the Yellowstone River

1832 George Catlin Born: Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania 1796 Died: Jersey City, New Jersey 1872 oil on canvas 11 1/4 x 14 3/8 in. (28.5 x 36.6 cm) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of Mrs. Joseph Harrison, Jr. 1985.66.368 Not currently on view


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George Catlin journeyed up the Missouri River in 1832. “I often landed my skiff,” he recalled, “and mounted the green carpeted bluffs whose soft grassy tops, invited me to recline, where I was at once lost in contemplation. Soul melting scenery that was about me! A place where the mind could think volumes; but the tongue must be silent that would speak, and the hand palsied that would write. A place where a Divine would confess that he never had fancied Paradise---where the painter's palette would lose its beautiful tints---the blood-stirring notes of eloquence would die in their utterance---and even the soft tones of sweet music would scarcely preserve a spark to light the soul again that had passed this sweet delirium. I mean the prairie, whose enameled plains that lie beneath me, in distance soften into sweetness, like an essence; whose thousand velvet covered hills, (surely never formed by chance, but grouped in one of Nature's sportive moods)---tossing and leaping down with steep or graceful declivities to the river's edge, as if to grace its pictured shores, and make it ‘a thing to look upon.’” (Catlin, Letters and Notes, vol. 2, no. 32, 1841; reprint 1973)

Keywords

Ethnic - Indian

Figure group - male

Landscape - plain

Landscape - river - Yellowstone River

Landscape - time - sunrise

Western

painting

paint - oil

fabric - canvas

metal - aluminum - support added