George Catlin's American Buffalo

October 11, 2019 – April 12, 2020

Buffalo Bull, Grazing on the Prairie by George Catlin, 1832–1833

Smithsonian American Art Museum
8th and F Streets, NW
Washington, DC

Floor Plan

George Catlin was among the earliest artists of European descent to travel beyond the Mississippi River to record what he called the “manners and customs” of American Indians, painting scenes and portraits from life. His intention was to document these native cultures before, as he feared, they were irrevocably altered by settlement of the frontier and the mass migrations forced by the Indian Removal Act of 1830. On his trips, Catlin recorded the massive herds of buffalo that roamed the Great Plains of the American West. In chronicling the lifeways of Plains Indian cultures, he captured the central importance of the buffalo in the daily lives of American Indian tribes, from food and shelter to ceremony and naming. The exhibition and related book George Catlin’s American Buffalo explore Catlin’s representation of buffalo and their integration into the lives of Native Americans through forty original paintings by the artist.