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Prairie Meadows Burning

1832 George Catlin Born: Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania 1796 Died: Jersey City, New Jersey 1872 oil on canvas 11 x 14 1/8 in. (27.8 x 35.9 cm) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of Mrs. Joseph Harrison, Jr. 1985.66.374 Not currently on view


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George Catlin painted ominous, swirling clouds of black smoke that loom out of the distance and drive the Indians before them. The artist was an eyewitness to such terrifying events, and described the fire’s “thunder rumbling as it goes.” But he also wrote that prairie fires made for “some of the most beautiful scenes that are to be witnessed in this country, and also some of the most sublime.” (Catlin, Letters and Notes, vol. 2, no. 33, 1841; reprint 1973)

Keywords

Animal - horse

Disaster - fire

Ethnic - Indian

Figure group - male

Landscape - plain

painting

paint - oil

fabric - canvas

metal - aluminum - support added