Catlin and His Contemporaries: The Politics of Patronage

Overview

George Catlin's paintings and the vision behind them have become part of our understanding of a lost America. We see the Indian past through Catlin's eyes, imagine a younger, fresher land in his bright hues. But he spent only a few years in what he considered Indian country. The rest of his long life—more than thirty years—was devoted largely to promoting, repainting, and selling his collection—in short, to seeking patronage.

Catlin and His Contemporaries examines how the ...

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Overview

George Catlin's paintings and the vision behind them have become part of our understanding of a lost America. We see the Indian past through Catlin's eyes, imagine a younger, fresher land in his bright hues. But he spent only a few years in what he considered Indian country. The rest of his long life—more than thirty years—was devoted largely to promoting, repainting, and selling his collection—in short, to seeking patronage.

Catlin and His Contemporaries examines how the preeminent painter of western Indians before the Civil War went about the business of making a living from his work. Catlin shared with such artists as Seth Eastman and John Mix Stanley a desire to preserve a visual record of a race seen as doomed and competed with them for federal assistance. In a young republic with little institutional and governmental support available, painters, writers, and scholars became rivals and sometimes bitter adversaries.

Brian W. Dippie untangles the complex web of interrelationships between artists, government officials, members of Congress, businessmen, antiquarians and literati, kings and queens, and the Indians themselves. In this history of the politics of patronage during the nineteenth century, luminaries like Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, Henry H. Sibley, John James Audubon, Alfred Jacob Miller, and Karl Bodmer are linked with Catlin in a contest for the support of the arts, setting a precedent for later generations. That the contenders "produced so much of enduring importance under such trying circumstances," Dippie observes,"was the sought-for miracle that had seemed to elude them in their lives."

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Editorial Reviews

William H. Goetzmann
"The best book in American cultural history that I have read in the last twenty-five years. Dippie's organization and presentation of a very complex subject is a dazzling performance, fully matched by his brilliant and evocative writing."—William H. Goetzmann, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and Stiles Professor of American Studies, University of Texas at Austin
Ron Tyler
"An engrossing story of one of the most important of the early western artists and his attempt to secure the government purchase of his Indian Gallery. It is based on sound research."—Ron Tyler, Director, Texas State Historical Association
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780803216839
  • Publisher: University of Nebraska Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/1990
  • Pages: 569
  • Lexile: 1410L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 7.30 (w) x 10.22 (h) x 1.37 (d)

Meet the Author

Brian W. Dippie is a professor of history at the University of Victoria, British Columbia. This book grew out of his earlier work The Vanishing American: White Attitudes and U. S. Indian Policy (1983).
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