The Incredible Works of George Catlin

horseheader11.jpgGood Morning!

One of my favorite research authors is George Catlin.  imagescan664w8 The story goes that as a young man, he was sent to school to become a lawyer, but he soon tired of this occupation and began chasing his dream, painting.  Because he was born in 1796, he was much accustomed to being amongst the Eastern Indians.  However, he once witnessed a party of Indians come to Philadelphia from west of the Mississippi.  In their native costumes he was much impressed by them, and it wasn’t long before he decided to make it his life’s work to go amongst the Indians and paint them, setting down their life and customs for posterity.

I’m so glad that he did.images3  Of all the works that I have researched in my seventeen years of writing historical romance books, George Catlin remains my favorite source of inspiration.  Here is a picture of a young girl of the Mandan tribe.  Catlin documents the unusual characteristics of this tribe in as much as they were a tribe of people who had many among them many people with blue and green eyes, as well as light-colored hair.  Notice that this girl has white hair in places — and yet when he painted her, she was 14 years of age.  The Mandans themselves couldn’t explain their unusual looks — so uncommon on the prairie (they were the only tribe that Catlin documents who had these unusual looks).  But Catlin does put forth a theory in his book that he believed  they were the decendants of a long lost Scottish prince — and indeed, a friend of mine told me that in Scotland, there is a long association of information on the American Indian.

a0000c7f1This painting to the left of this post is of the Crow men bathing — now it’s not in any of my books — any theory as to why?  When I blew up this painting, lo and behold, there were some rather sexy images of these men as they rested and played.  So of course I had to download this to share with you.  Note also the extreme length of the air on these men.  Long hair was considered a treasure and it was never cut unless one experienced a death of a loved one — but as you can see here, it was grown to very long lengths.

imagescas537pgI wanted so much to show you the pictures of Black Rock — a Sioux Indian, and One Horn, another Sioux Indian — but after an hour of trying to find the photos and download them, I gave up.  Once I finally found their paintings (that have inspired me so much), they weren’t available to copy.  However, this is another artist’s rendition of one of a painting that has inspired me — but it doesn’t capture the flavor of the original Catlin works.

a0000cb21Here’s another painting that illustrates the extreme length of the Indian’s hairstyle at this point in their history.  One of the reasons I like researching Catlin is because he went amongst the Indians.  He lived with them and talked with them and really got to know them — so that when a person now reads his work, one is transported back to that time and place.  One comment that Catlin makes in his work is that in all his travels amongst all the Indian tribes of the Americas, not once did anyone accost him or try to steal his things, though there was much opportunity to do both.  It is a statement on the character and integrity of the American Indian.

imagesca8ttczfThere’s another hairstyle that was common upon the plains at this time in history.  Here’s a picture of it.  This is the painting (a reproduction) of a Blackfoot Indian who was at this time about fifty years of age.  Note the “bangs” in the center of the forehead.  I’ve tried often to describe this kind of hairstyle in my books — but I think sometimes it communicates better to simply see it for yourself.431px-assiniboin_indians_0065v1

Okay, I know this is an awfully big picture, but this picture shows the hairstyle on a man who is quite handsome and I have spent many an hour looking at this painting as I write.  This man was a warrior of distinction — one can tell this by the spear-bow that he carries.  Also note on his shield his medicine bundle.  This man was an Assiniboine Indian, which was at one time a tribe much related to the Sioux, but for some reason in the long ago, they split off from the Sioux (Lakota) and became their own tribe.

Another reason I’ve made this so big is because when I was on the Assiniboine/Gros Venture reservation, I was allowed to sit in on a tribal meeting.  The chief who was holding the meeting could have been a modern image of this man.  The lady who accompanied me said, “He’s a handsome man.”  I could only agree.  By the way, this painting was done by Karl Bodmer, who accompanied Prince Maximilian into the American West.

In ending, I’d like to close with this image of a more elderly George Catlin.copy-of-180px-georgecatlinbyfisk1  I love this painting — it shows him not only at his work, but with those whom he came to know and acknowledge as friends — the Indians.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this particular blog today — it’s a bit of research that I must admit I have quite a fondness for.  And it’s because of George Catlin that we still have images of the long ago so that we can see the characterization of these people at this point in history.  If he were here today, I would thank him very much.

Do you have a favorite painting — or a favorite research — that inspires you?  Please come on in and let’s talk about it.  Know also that I am running a holiday contest — it’s easy to enter.  Either leave a comment here or email me personally or go find me on FaceBook (you have to type in to find me.)  I think there are over 500 Karen Kay’s on FaceBook.

And don’t forget to pick up your copy of BLACK EAGLE today.  51obnqdgasl_sl500_aa240_1

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KAREN KAY aka GEN BAILEY is the multi-published author of American Indian Historical Romances. She has written for such prestigious publishers as AVON/HarperCollins, Berkley/Penguin/Putnam and Samhain Publishing. KAREN KAY’S great grandmother was Choctaw Indian and Kay is honored to be able to write about the American Indian Culture.
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36 thoughts on “The Incredible Works of George Catlin”

  1. Very interesting post Karen! I didn’t realise That long hair was a treasure to the indians. I knew they wore it long but I hadn’t thought about why they wore it that way. My grandmother on my fathers side had a lot in indian in her because she looked like them. She was tall and big built with dark hair. She had very little gray in her hair when she passed away.

  2. Karen, these paintings are beautiful. No wonder they inspire you. And where would we be without the people who went out and recorded history with brush and canvas before the days of the camera?

  3. Karen this was a very intresting and informative look at history.. I really enjoyed it. Thanks for sharing this history with us.

  4. I love that huge painting Karen. I’ve spent a lot of time just right now looking at it, the details and the strength of the images are really fantastic. I love it that there was a guy back then who had the vision to paint these pictures.

  5. Kay, what terrific information and to-die-for pictures! I think the long lustrous hair is magnificent. How talented George Catlin was, and brave, too.

    I also have heard of a Scottish presence in North America.

  6. Kay, wow! What neat paintings. It’s wonderful that the Native Americans inspired George Catlin to paint them. It did indeed preserve pieces of history. I’m sure he was very revered by his subjects. You always come up with the most interesting blogs.

  7. Enjoyed reading rhe comments. I like a lot of paintingsof the west and especially some I saw that were in the Gene Autry Cowboy Museum in California.
    This has a wonderful collection of all things Western.
    Happy Holidays

  8. Good morning Quilt Lady (it’s still morning here on the West coast. Yes, the Indians grew their hair very long and wouldn’t part with it for anything except perhaps a lock of it when someone in the family died. Women, however,cut their hair completely with a death in the family.

    That’s wonderful that you had some time to spend with your grandmother. 🙂

  9. Hi Jennie!

    Yes, they are inspiring and have inspired me now for seventeen years. His writing of the land, of the people and the untouched regions is also inspiring. Luckily his books are still in print. He also wrote about a delegation of Indians who went to London. In an early book (my second) I used this as research — that book is LAKOTA PRINCESS.

  10. I’ve seen some of those paintings in this very big book about Native Americans. I don’t have one favorite painting, but many by some great Finnish painters, like Akseli Gallen Kallela, Hugo Simberg and Ferdinand von Wright.

  11. Hi Mary!

    Yes, I have found that painting very inspiring. I used it for inspiration for the book THE SPIRIT OF THE WOLF — that hero was also Assiniboine.

    Like you, I am thankful that these men found it in their hearts to paint these images and set down their true character before it was lost to the world at large.

    Thanks Mary. 🙂

  12. Good Morning, Elizabeth!

    I had a feeling that you were probably familiar with Catlin and Bodmer. They do make one’s day a little better, don’t they? And maybe that’s the purpose of art, after all. 🙂

  13. Have you also heard of that, Tanya. I’d love to hear what it is that you’ve heard. I got the info from a friend of mine, who was talking to someone in Scotland, who informed her that Scotland had kept a record of the Indians all this time.

    They did leave their imprint — at least on the Mandan tribe. 🙂

  14. Hi Linda!

    Thanks for the compliment on the blogs. Inspiration is so much a part of writing, that I do believe it’s important and I thought I’d share some of the things that do inspire me.

    There is much out there to provide inspiration, that’s a certainty, but some of us see things differently and perhaps that’s what’s so great about writing. No two voices are ever the same.

  15. Oh, Joye, you’ve hit upon another love of mine. The Gene Autry museum. I have gone there often — and I love it each time I go there. It’s so unusual in this workaday world that it’s wonderful to just go there and take in the atmosphere. 🙂

  16. I have quite a few paintings around my home. Some belonged to my husband’s parents who traveled quite a bit in the service, a few are gifts, some were from our travels and some are from my daughter and her boyfriend who are both artists. They all tell a story and come from many different countries and are all very dear to me. Two are from out west – one an indian warrior and another is two indians on horseback.

  17. Hi Jeanne!

    It must be quite beautiful to have the paintings from around the world. Since art makes brings us all such joy, they are wonderful things to have. 🙂

  18. I’m late today, but I’m glad I did stop by. Your
    information is always so interesting, showing us
    quite a lot of the history of the various Native
    American tribes and their friends. Thanks so much!

    Pat Cochran

  19. Excellent research Karen. I really enjoyed the pics on hairstyles. Strange that no one has come up with a name for the individual styles yet, eh.

    I wasn’t familiar with Catlin’s work but I know his name will stick with me from now on.

    Great post.

  20. Karen,
    Catlin’s work is wonderful. There are several other artists who represented the native inhabitants of this country. To name a few, Paul Kane, Frederic Remington, Charles Bird King, and Alfred Jacob Miller. They each had their own special style. Some did portraits and some did scenes of everyday life. The rich variety of tribes and their life ways, dress and ornamentation provided rich subject matter for these artists. Luckily they preserved these special views for posterity before the white culture overtook them and changed or destroyed them forever.
    Hope you have a great Holiday Season.

  21. Hi Pat!

    I’m sorry I’m only getting to your post on Wednesday — things were snowed under at bit last night. Thanks so much.

    Did I tell you the news? Grandfather George — who is a Native actor — meet Adam Beach yesterday. I tried to grill him about the meeting but all he said was he was as handsome in person as he is on the screen. 🙂

  22. Hi Anita!

    Oh, I know that if you ever get Catlin’s books — you will fall in love with them as I did, too.

    Sorry I’m only getting to your post on Wednesday. 🙂

  23. I love your posts, Patricia. I am familiar with these other artists, but the ones I like best and find inspiration in (it’s different for different people I’m sure) is Catlin and Bodmer.

    I often find myself staring that their work for hours — a few years back the Autry museum had Catlin’s collection on display and of course I went to see the original paintings. It was magical.

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