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George Catlin
Shon-ta-yi-ga, Little Wolf, a Famous Warrior, 1844
Iowa
oil
29 x 24 in.
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Mrs. Joseph Harrison, Jr.


The wife (Female Bear that Walks on the Back of Another) and child (Corsair, a papoose) of Little Wolf both died while abroad.

Probably painted inLondon in 1844, but further retouching may have taken place in Paris (see NGA White Cloud, chief of the tribe for additional references and discussion). The portrait is one of two Catlin entered in the Salon of 1846 (see Buffalo Bull's Back Fat, Head Chief, Blood Tribe, acc. no. 1985.66.149), and it is surely the masterpiece of his European career. The balanced strength of the modeling and brushwork, which surpasses that of many of his American achievements, must represent an effort by the artist to conform, if only temporarily, to the academic standards of the Salon jury. Even the jewely is more sharply finished than usual, and more skillfully designed as a setting for the imposing head of Little Wolf. The remote and thoughtful presence of the Indian might also reflect the civilized restrictions of London and Paris, rather than the primitive world of the Upper Missouri.

Catlin lists another portrait of Little Wolf among those commissioned by Louis Philippe in 1845 (see Eagle Dance, Choctaw, acc. no. 1985.66.449, and Travels in Europe), and the subject appears again in cartoon 60 (National Gallery of Art, 2069).



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