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Wild Horses at Play

1834-1837 George Catlin Born: Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania 1796 Died: Jersey City, New Jersey 1872 oil on canvas 19 5/8 x 27 1/2 in. (49.7 x 70.0 cm) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of Mrs. Joseph Harrison, Jr. 1985.66.499 Not currently on view


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“There is no other animal on the prairies so wild and so sagacious as the horse . . . I made many attempts to approach them by stealth, when they were grazing and playing their gambols, without ever having been more than once able to succeed. In this instance, I left my horse, and with my friend Chadwick, skulked through a ravine for a couple of miles; until we were at length brought within gun-shot of a fine herd of them, when I used my pencil for some time, while we were under cover of a little hedge of bushes which effectually screened us from their view. In this herd we saw all the colours, nearly, that can be seen in a kennel of English hounds. Some were milk white, some jet black---others were sorrel, and bay, and cream colour---many were of an iron grey; and others were pied, containing a variety of colours on the same animal. Their manes were very profuse, and hanging in the wildest confusion over their necks and faces---and their long tails swept the ground.” George Catlin sketched this scene on a dragoon expedition in 1834, and probably completed the painting in his studio between 1835 and 1837. (Catlin, Letters and Notes, vol. 2, no. 41, 1841, reprint 1973; Truettner, The Natural Man Observed, 1979)

Keywords

Animal - horse

painting

paint - oil

fabric - canvas

metal - aluminum - support added