George Catlin Catching the Wild Horse

This hand-tinted, engraved print by George Catlin (1796-1872) suffers from substantial foxing, discoloration, and stains. The stain on the reverse is something we believe was caused by food, which is a little funny as the print itself is probably more valuable than a table. But these things happen, and the client will be happy to know the work’s value, and that the food stain did not bled through the paper and that it will clean up nicely, as will the foxing and the discoloration. Stay tuned as we finish the restoration and prepare a new custom frame with a wide French mat.

Born in Pennsylvania, Catlin became one of the most prominent chroniclers of Native Americans and the land west of the Mississippi. Indian lore was a fascinating aspect of Catlin’s childhood, as his mother, when she was a girl, was kidnapped by Indians. Several years later, in 1824, after Catlin had given up his life as a lawyer for that of an artist, he witnessed a delegation of Plains Indians, described as “lords of the forest,” which aroused in him a great determination to become a pictorial historian of Indians. For the next six years he painted portraits of Indians on reservations in western New York before venturing into the West, the land beyond the Mississippi. He was aided by Lewis and Clark and actually spent a two year expedition with Clark while Clark negotiated Indian treaties. Subsequent trips into the West were made during the summer months, while winter months were spent in the East looking for financial backers. Known as a quick and skilled painter with a sympathetic eye, Catlin created a unique and substantial record of American Indian people which he described as “honest, hospitable, faithful, brave, warlike, cruel, revengeful, relentless,—yet honourable, contemplative, and religious being.” In a span of eight years he visited over 45 different tribes, participated in buffalo hunts, observed Indian ceremonies, games, dances and rituals, and emerged with 520 oil portraits and paintings.  His work has been particularly noted for the “roughness and energy” of its subject matter, which left an impression not only on America, but also in Europe.

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