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Exhibitions Home | Current | Upcoming | Past | Virtual

George Catlin and His Indian Gallery

September 6, 2002 – January 20, 2003

Museum: Renwick Gallery

Location: 1st Floor (Part 1) & Grand Salon, 2nd Floor (Part 2)

The most comprehensive display of Catlin's works in over a century, this exhibition showcases more than 400 paintings, personal papers, and American Indian artifacts and tells his unique story, including his relationship with the Smithsonian.

Catlin in America (Part 1, 1st Floor; see Note below) tells the story of his early work in Philadelphia and his epic journeys west; it includes paintings, personal papers, artifacts, and a surround video gallery with a 4-minute film that gives a sense of "being there" with scenes of prairie and buffalo (runs continuously).

Catlin in Europe (Part 2, Grand Salon) features 250 paintings in an installation that recalls the Indian Gallery as Catlin displayed it during his tours of Europe in the 1840s, with works hung salon-style, one-atop-another and side-by-side. Also on view are 3 Thomas Moran paintings (2 date from 1872 and are on long-term loan from the U.S. Dept. of the Interior, and a 3rd from 1893 that is part of the museum's permanent collection).

A lawyer turned painter, Catlin was the first major artist to travel west of the Mississippi, traversing thousands of miles along parts of the Lewis and Clark Trail from 1830 to 1836 and visiting over 50 American Indian tribes. His works -- painted during 5 trips across The Plains -- made up the nucleus of his Indian Gallery. In 1852, in exchange for payment of Catlin's debts, Joseph Harrison, an American locomotive manufacturer, purchased the original Indian Gallery. Harrison's widow donated this extensive collection, including paintings, artifacts, and papers, to the Smithsonian Institution in 1879. In his later years, Catlin painted in a room in the Smithsonian Institution Castle.

No flash photography permitted in the Grand Salon

Museum Store (2nd floor, off Grand Salon)

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