Painting the Wild Frontier: The Art and Adventures of George Catlin by Susanna Reich, Hardcover | Barnes & Noble
Painting the Wild Frontier: The Art and Adventures of George Catlin

Painting the Wild Frontier: The Art and Adventures of George Catlin

by Susanna Reich
     
 

George Catlin is one of America’s best-known painters, famous for his iconic portraits of Native Americans. He spent much of his life in the wilderness, sketching and painting as he traveled. A solo trek across 500 miles of uncharted prairie, an expedition to the Andes, harrowing encounters with grizzly bears and panthers, and tours of the royal palaces of

Overview

George Catlin is one of America’s best-known painters, famous for his iconic portraits of Native Americans. He spent much of his life in the wilderness, sketching and painting as he traveled. A solo trek across 500 miles of uncharted prairie, an expedition to the Andes, harrowing encounters with grizzly bears and panthers, and tours of the royal palaces of Europe were among his many adventures. In an era when territorial expansion resulted in the near annihilation of many indigenous cultures, George Catlin dedicated himself to meeting and writing about the native peoples of the western hemisphere. With his “Indian Gallery” of paintings and artifacts, he toured the United States and Europe, stirring up controversy and creating a sensation.
Award-winning author Susanna Reich combines excerpts from Catlin’s letters and notes with vivid depictions of his far-flung travels. Generously illustrated with archival prints and photos and Catlin’s own magnificent paintings, here is a rollicking, accessible biography that weaves meticulously researched history into a fascinating frontier and jungle adventure story.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Using primary sources, including Catlin's own diaries and letters, Reich helps readers understand the importance of the artist's work and to see him as a man in his own time. The personal documents expose both selfless and selfish sides of his character. At times, he was sensitive to the Native peoples and their cultures, but he also used them for his own gain. Readers also see the artist as a neglectful family man and less-than-successful businessman; however, above all, Catlin is seen as an adventurer. Many of his paintings illustrate the text and add to a sense of excitement. A few of the larger reproductions are in color, giving a clearer view of the artist's palette and style. Other period works are also included. All are well captioned with additional identification and information that ties in to the text. Quotations are carefully documented in chapter footnotes. The author's note explains her choice of terminology and spelling as well as her efforts to avoid cultural bias in writing this book. This is an excellent choice for libraries looking for good biographies, either for reports or pleasure reading."—School Library Journal, starred review

"In following the career of George Catlin, noted nineteenth-century painter of Indian life, Reich successfully performs a delicate balancing act—steering her text between thoughtful art interpretation, comprehensive biography, and kid-pleasing adventure tale, and acknowledging both Catlin's intrusion into and exploitation of Indian cultures and his atypical-for-his-time esteem for the richness of those cultures and the dignity of their leadership. Readers come away with a judicious view of Catlin as primarily a restless wanderer—far better as a roving artist than a family man—who mustered his considerable talent as a painter for the worthwhile cause of documenting indigenous peoples who seemed to be teetering on the verge or cultural extinction. While his efforts were valuable, Reich makes it clear that they did not always rise to noble—Catlin certainly wasn't above paying Indians to put on a Barnum-esque performance for European audiences, embellishing the narration at his exhibits, or bulling his way into a sacred Sioux pipestone quarry and swiping a rock sample (catlinite, later named after him). As one would expect, the title is profusely illustrated, and captioning is concise and helpful. Unfortunately, only eight paintings appear in color, and they're in an insert removed from proximity to text references. An author's note addresses problems and decisions regarding translation of Indian names and terms. An extensive timeline, chapter notes, selected bibliography (by topic and format), and index are also included."—The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

VOYA - Heather Christensen
Although trained as a lawyer, George Catlin is best known for his work painting Native Americans during the nineteenth century. His enormous body of work, which includes more than 300 portraits, provides a detailed record of a way of life that was disappearing even as he struggled to make his work known. Reich's chronicle of Catlin's adventurous life captures his many complexities. He was both an artist and a businessman; a devoted father who abandoned his family for months, sometimes years at a time; and an admirer and an exploiter of native peoples. Catlin was a product of his own time, and he often viewed Native Americans through a romantic lens. Although he intended his artwork as a call to the Indian's plight, his methods were at times offensive to the very people he proposed to help. Aware of her own cultural biases, Reich is careful to give voice to modern Native representatives so that readers can gain a more complete perspective on Catlin and his work. Thorough bibliographic information makes this source excellent for reports and research, while Reich's readable style will draw biography and history buffs. Black-and-white paintings and photographs illustrate nearly every page, with eight full-color paintings, to give the reader a glimpse of the intricate details in his work. Two maps give a general idea of Catlin's routes, although Reich makes it clear that a definitive itinerary of his travels is unavailable because of Catlin's affinity for exaggeration. Reviewer: Heather Christensen
Children's Literature - Kathleen Karr
Like the buffalo, the Plains Indians' world was already fairly doomed by the 1830s, the decade the artist George Catlin (1796-1872) tried to document the tribes before disease and relocation schemes forever changed their way of life. In her long-overdue study, award-winning biographer Susanna Reich takes on Catlin. In the process, she also takes on the course of "Manifest Destiny," the irrevocable westward movement of the United States that dictated the Native Americans' future as well as Catlin's life's work, his "Indian Gallery" of hundreds of native portraits and western views. For a man trained as a Pennsylvania lawyer, Catlin's career did turn in curious directions. But then, his obsession with Native Americans was well founded. As a young girl, his mother was taken into captivity by Indians. In his own childhood, his favorite Indian was murdered by neighbors. Later he would live with and paint Mandans and Hidatsas along the Missouri River. He would become incensed by the pint of whiskey fur traders paid Indians for each skin of a dead buffalo. Eventually he would forsake his family to tour Europe as a showman with his incredible paintings of fierce chieftains and forgotten buffalo hunts. Reich offers up all the details: the fires, the bad sales, the artist's escape into deafness and death, with a generous back matter of time line, notes, bibliographies, and index. Yet Catlin's personal story means nothing next to the pictures he left behind: To stand in the Grand Salon of the Renwick Gallery in Washington, D.C., and be bombarded by row upon row of these powerful, primitive images from our lost collective past is beyond extraordinary. With its lovingly reproduced images andintelligent take on Catlin's life and times, having Reich's book in hand is the next best thing. Reviewer: Kathleen Karr
School Library Journal

Gr 5-8

Using primary sources, including Catlin's own diaries and letters, Reich helps readers understand the importance of the artist's work and to see him as a man in his own time. The personal documents expose both selfless and selfish sides of his character. At times, he was sensitive to the Native peoples and their cultures, but he also used them for his own gain. Readers also see the artist as a neglectful family man and less-than-successful businessman; however, above all, Catlin is seen as an adventurer. Many of his paintings illustrate the text and add to a sense of excitement. A few of the larger reproductions are in color, giving a clearer view of the artist's palette and style. Other period works are also included. All are well captioned with additional identification and information that ties in to the text. Quotations are carefully documented in chapter footnotes. The author's note explains her choice of terminology and spelling as well as her efforts to avoid cultural bias in writing this book. This is an excellent choice for libraries looking for good biographies, either for reports or pleasure reading.-Carolyn Janssen, Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, OH

Kirkus Reviews
With graceful writing and fascinating artwork, this well-designed biography explores the work and adventures of George Catlin. Best known for his many paintings of American Indians, Catlin traveled extensively in the American West and South America in the mid-1800s. He lived rough and encountered many dangers, some life-threatening. His own writing proves a fertile source of lively stories and quotations: He described being attacked by a jaguar that he was hunting, possibly for its tail, which he recommended for its "deliciousness of flavor." Reich places Catlin's life in the context of art history and provides an overview of the Indian tribes he encountered and their plights. The complex portrait of Catlin is even-handed; he hoped to champion the cause of Indians but also partly exploited them to make his living. While he created a remarkable historical record, his family suffered financially and by his prolonged absences. An author's note addresses the challenges of a white author's writing about Indians and the reliability of Catlin's writing. A handsome, well-documented volume. (timeline, endnotes, bibliography; map, index not seen) (Biography. 12 & up)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780618714704
Publisher:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
08/25/2008
Edition description:
None
Pages:
176
Product dimensions:
9.70(w) x 9.50(h) x 1.10(d)
Lexile:
1110L (what's this?)
Age Range:
10 - 12 Years

Meet the Author

Susanna Reich is the author of Clara Schumann: Piano Virtuoso, which was named an ALA Notable Children’s Book, a YALSA Best Book for Young Adults, a School Library Journal Best Book of the Year, and a Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People. She lives with her husband, author Gary Golio, in Ossining, New York. For more information please visit www.susannareich.com.

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