George Catlin: American Indian Portraits

Past exhibition archive
7 March - 23 June 2013

Admission Free

During the 1830s Pennsylvania-born artist George Catlin (17961872) made five trips to the western United States to document the Native American peoples and their way of life. The resulting portraits have become one of the most extensive, evocative and important records of indigenous peoples ever made.

Catlin was also an entrepreneur and a showman and, inspired by his encounters, he created an ‘Indian Gallery’ that toured America and Europe during the next ten years. This exhibition of over fifty portraits was the first time that they had been seen together outside America since returning there in the 1850s. They were displayed to suggest the sense of spectacle created by Catlin and demonstrate how he constructed a particular image of American Indians in the minds of his audience.

Organised in collaboration with the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington

Supported by the Terra Foundation for American Art

Logo of Terra Foundation for American Art

Spring Season 2013 sponsored by

Logo of Herbert Smith Freehills

Stu-Mick-o-Sucks, Buffalo Bill's Back Fat, Head Chief, Blood Tribe, Blackfoot/Kainai by George Catlin, 1832 © Smithsonian American Museum, Gift of Mrs Joseph Harrison, Jr


Exhibition co-curators Stephanie Pratt and Joan Carpenter Troccoli, as well as history students from the University of Birmingham, discuss George Catlin, American history and identity, Black Hawk and contemporary Native American art.

America in the 1830s and ‘40s (2:13)


American Indian Portraits (2:51)


Who was Catlin? (2:51)


Artefacts (1:50)


The Mandan Shirt (2:19)


Black Hawk (2:31)


American Identity (1:50)


Contemporary Culture (1:39)


Curator's Biography (2:52)


The Indian Gallery (2:06)


The Ojibwa and lowa in Europe (1:40)


Catlin's Identity in Europe (1:51)


Catlin – the Final Years (1:50)


Films made with students from the University of Birmingham

Gender in Catlin's Portraits (3:07)


Catlins European Adventure (3:32)


Introduction to the Arikara and Blackfoot tribes (4:30)


Exhibition catalogue

A fully illustrated catalogue was published by the National Portrait Gallery to accompany the exhibition, written by curators Dr Stephanie Pratt and Dr Joan Carpenter Troccoli.

Find out more about the George Catlin: American Indian Portraits Catalogue