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Prairie Bluffs Burning

1832 George Catlin Born: Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania 1796 Died: Jersey City, New Jersey 1872 oil on canvas 11 1/4 x 14 1/2 in. (28.6 x 36.7 cm) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of Mrs. Joseph Harrison, Jr. 1985.66.375 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 . . . Over the elevated lands and prairie bluffs, where the grass is thin and short, the fire slowly creeps with a feeble flame, which one can easily step over; where the wild animals often rest in their lairs until the flames almost burn their noses, when they will reluctantly rise, and leap over it, and trot off amongst the cinders, where the fire has passed and left the ground as black as jet.” George Catlin sketched this scene on his 1832 Missouri River voyage. (Catlin, Letters and Notes, vol. 2, no. 33, 1841; reprint 1973)


Animal - deer

Disaster - fire

Landscape - lake

Landscape - mountain

Landscape - plain


paint - oil

fabric - canvas

metal - aluminum - support added