Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Catlin's paintings of North American Indians

Yesterday Nick and I went to the National Portrait Gallery and among other stuff, we saw George Catlin's portraits of North American Indians in the 1830s and 1840s.

Catlin began his project because he saw the Indians as a vanishing culture and wanted to conserve as much of it as possible. At the same time he needed to make money and these two goals didn't always go together well. But it has resulted in a unique collection of hundreds of portraits and paintings of most of the tribes of the east and west.

Apart from the information on the dress, appearance, customs and beliefs of the Indians, the paintings offer beautiful facial expressions. It's evident that Catlin empathised with his sitters. Not all paintings are of even quality because Catlin did many of them and fast, but even some of the unfinished ones are fascinating.

Catlin's other interest like geology also feature on the side of the exhibition. And since the National Portrait Gallery is free to visit, make sure you give it a try when you get to London. The turnover of exhibitions is quite high and there is lots to see.

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