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Wounded Buffalo Bull Surrounded by White Wolves

1832-1833 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. 1985.66.468 Not currently on view


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George Catlin sketched this scene on the Upper Missouri River in 1832. While he insisted that his images were accurate documents of what he saw, it is clear that Catlin’s artistic eye led him to edit his compositions. Here he chose to position the buffalo so that its rounded form echoes the hills in the distance.

Catlin was horrified at what the wolves had done to the bull, noting that the animal’s eyes “were entirely eaten out of his head---the grizzle of his nose was mostly gone---his tongue was half eaten off, and the skin and flesh of his legs torn almost literally into strings. In this tattered and torn condition, the poor old veteran stood bracing up in the midst of his devourers . . .” (Catlin, Letters and Notes, vol. 1, no. 31, 1841; reprint 1973)

Keywords

Animal - buffalo

Animal - wolf

Landscape - plain

painting

paint - oil

fabric - canvas

metal - aluminum - support added