Conference: American Indian Images: Making and Breaking George Catlin’s legacy
Past event archive
8 March 2013, 10:00-18:00
Ondaatje Wing Theatre
Tickets: £30 (£25 concessions and Gallery Supporters) Book online or call 020 7306 0055
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Wash-Ka-Mon-Ya Fast Dancer
by Isaac by George Catlin, 1844
© Smithsonian American Art Museum,
Gift of Mrs. Joseph Harrison, Jr
This conference is designed to use the occasion of the George Catlin: American Indian Portraits exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery to place his project and its legacy in a wider context.
Catlin’s ambition to record what he considered to be a vanishing way of life may be positioned against nascent anthropological research in Europe and the USA; his self-promotion as a first-hand witness of indigenous cultures in the field may be compared with other artist-explorers working in North America then or subsequently (i.e. Karl Bodmer, Seth Eastman, John Mix Stanley, James Otto Lewis, Alfred Jacob Miller, Edward Curtis and many others); and Catlin’s tactics of promotion, including live performance by Ojibwa and Iowa Indians, bears affinities to similar displays of Native American groups in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and has been thought to preamble the work of later showmen and entertainers as seen in the ‘Wild West’ of Buffalo Bill Cody and others.
It will also be rewarding to consider the extent to which the Indian image Catlin constructed has proved influential in subsequent imaginings of American Indian life as, for instance, in the popular representations made for subsequent generations of viewers, especially filmic representations. More recently, Catlin’s vision of the American Indians has been critiqued through the artistic practices of a number of contemporary Native American artists who have taken Catlin’s project as a starting point for deconstructing stereotypical representation and a reclamation of Native American identities as seen in the work of Kent Monkman, Robert Houle, ‘Belle Sauvage’, Lori Blondeau, Shelley Niro, and others.
Speakers include Stephanie Pratt, exhibition curator, Associate Professor of Art History at the University of Plymouth and a member of the Dakota Nation; and Joan Carpenter Troccoli, Founding Director of the Petrie Institute of Western American Art at the Denver Art Museum, Calvin Grinnell, historian of Mandan and Hidatsa peoples, Benita Eisler, author of The Red Man’s Bones, a biography on Catlin, Mick Gidley, Emeritus Professor of American Literature, University of Leeds, Dr Sadiah Qureshi, Lecturer in Modern History, University of Birmingham, and Dr Christina Welch, Senior Lecturer in Theology and Religious Studies, University of Winchester.