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Louis Potter
The Fire Dance
1907
bronze
30 x 11 3/4 x 11 3/4 in.
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Mrs. George R. Percy



One in a series of Potter's sculptures about the fundamental elements of nature, The Fire Dance features a Sioux Indian. According to George Catlin, the Sioux Indians had a dance for every occasion—worship, entertainment, healing, and celebration. In fact, he felt they should be called the “dancing Indians…they had dances for everything. There was scarcely an hour, day or night, but that the beat of the drum could not be heard.” Like Catlin, Potter was interested in ethnography, so much of his work depicts Native American ceremonies and rituals. Emphasizing smooth surfaces and uncluttered, fluid lines, Potter captures the beauty of the human figure and the rhythmic motion of the Fire Dance.