Using the Amon Carter’s collection of American art and the National Endowment for the Humanities’ Picturing America project, explore masterworks of American art and the artists who made them while discussing how these works connect American culture and history.

This project is supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

National Endowment for the Humanities Picturing America Program Participant

Artist Biography

George Catlin (1796–1872) was born in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. After a brief career as a lawyer, he produced two major collections of paintings of American Indians and published a series of books chronicling his travels among the native peoples of North, Central, and South America. Catlin set out to record the appearance and customs of American Indians—who he believed were a "vanishing race”after his interest was sparked by a visiting American Indian delegation in Philadelphia. In 1830, he began his journey by accompanying General William Clark (1770–1838) on a diplomatic mission up the Mississippi River into American Indian territory. St. Louis became Catlin's base of operations for five trips he took between 1830 and 1836, eventually visiting fifty tribes. When Catlin returned east in 1838, he assembled his paintings and artifacts into his Indian Gallery and delivered public lectures about his personal experiences among the American Indians. The Indian Gallery traveled to major cities like Cincinnati, New York, and Pittsburgh, but it did not attract the paying public Catlin financially needed. His dream was to sell his Indian Gallery to the U.S. government, and when he was unsuccessful, he was forced to sell the works due to personal debts in 1852. Catlin spent the last twenty years of his life trying to recreate his collection.