The Red Man's Bones: George Catlin, Artist and Showman
  • The Red Man's Bones: George Catlin, Artist and Showman
  • The Red Man's Bones: George Catlin, Artist and Showman
  • The Red Man's Bones: George Catlin, Artist and Showman
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The Red Man's Bones: George Catlin, Artist and Showman

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by Benita Eisler

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A biography of the greatest artist to live with, and record images of, more than thirty tribes of the northern plains.See more details below


A biography of the greatest artist to live with, and record images of, more than thirty tribes of the northern plains.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Eisler (Chopin’s Funeral), the noted biographer of George Sand, Lord Byron, and others, delivers an engrossing account of George Catlin (1796–1872), the self-taught American artist, explorer, and amateur ethnologist who painted images of more than 30 tribes of the northern plains. After a sluggish career as a portrait painter of miniatures in Philadelphia, Catlin set off for St. Louis and the northern plains above Missouri, where he was the first artist to live among the Native Americans, sharing meals, games, ceremonies, and bison hunting expeditions with his subjects. Eisler vividly recreates Catlin’s years among the Indians and focuses on his ambiguous feelings toward them. After spending much of the 1830s in Indian country, from Pensacola, Fla. to the pipestone quarry in Minnesota, Catlin began a traveling show of his paintings and Indian artifacts. But during his long stay in Europe, he incorporated live Indians into his show, becoming an exploiter rather than an advocate. As Eisler shows, tragedy and money woes dogged Catlin, to the point where he spent a stint in an English debtor’s prison. An elegant and skillful writer, Eisler captures Catlin’s many roles, and notes how even today, he remains a “contentious figure.” Illus. Agent: Gloria Loomis, Watkins / Loomis Agency. (July)
Stacy Schiff
“A sparkling biography of the artist and impresario George Catlin, so much an American original that he lived most of his life abroad. Rich in exceptional feats, odd twists, and wrong turns, Red Man's Bones captivates completely.”
Amanda Foreman
“Through her impeccable scholarship, Benita Eisler masterfully illuminates the tragic life of 19th Century artist George Catlin, America's forgotten portraitist of Native American life. The Red Man's Bones is that rare kind of 'warts and all' history, showing the real Catlin while successfully making the case for his elevation to the pantheon of great American artists.”
Kate Tuttle - Boston Globe
“An elegant, thoughtful new biography.”
Jonathan Lopez - Wall Street Journal
“Marvelous … wonderfully nuanced and compelling … Ms. Eisler's book is far and away the best biography of Catlin in existence.”
Tim Bross - Saint Louis Post-Dispatch
“Pitch-perfect… [Eisler] is a skilled writer, showing both flair and economy.”
New Yorker
“[A] lively and well-researched biography.”
Library Journal
George Catlin was not a natural artist, but his lifelong fascination with Native Americans—spurred by his mother's stories of her capture by a tribe as a girl on the frontier—led him to make illustrating Indians' traditional customs and garb his life's mission. He visited more than 50 tribes between 1830 and 1836 and produced hundreds of paintings, portraits, and life scenes documenting the peoples of the Northern Plains. His 600 works, many illustrated here, are a treasure of pictorial information about the Indians at a period of upheaval owing both to the Indian Removal Act and epidemic disease. Although Catlin had limited commercial success as a painter, he went on to produce the first live "Wild West" shows, which appear to today's eyes sensational and exploitative. He died an impoverished man, but, as dreamed, his works are now housed by the Smithsonian's Museum of American Art. Eisler (Byron: Child of Passion, Fool of Fame) conducted extensive research into archives for this biography, surprisingly the first of such depth. VERDICT While at times the narrative seems disjointed, the attentive reader will enjoy this fascinating story.—Nancy B. Turner, Syracuse Univ. Lib., NY
Kirkus Reviews
A welcome new evaluation of a significant American artist honed by the Wild West spirit and hucksterism of the age. Biographer of Byron, Chopin, George Sand and others (Naked in the Marketplace: The Lives of George Sand, 2007, etc.), Eisler now turns her considerable research talents to fleshing out the life and work of Pennsylvania-born artist George Catlin (1796–1892), whose sympathetic portraits of the Native Americans he sought out and lived among render an incalculable record of (and tribute to) a vanished people. Trained as a lawyer, Catlin fled the tediousness and drudgery of the profession by immersing himself in drawing, specifically miniatures. Largely self-taught, he nonetheless had some formal training at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia in the early 1820s, under Thomas Sully and Charles Willson Peale, and he made his way as a journeyman artist. His portraits of Gov. DeWitt Clinton garnered some attention, but he was always in need of official patronage. Perhaps inspired by Charles Bird King's portraits of tribal leaders in Washington, Catlin struck out West and attached himself to Gen. William Clark, governor of the Missouri Territory. Portraying the Indians of the Southwestern plains became Catlin's passion, and during the 1830s, over numerous visits embedded among the tribes, he painted hundreds of careful portraits; he often bought the Indians' garments and artifacts to display later with the work as proof of his eyewitness. Much of the rest of his restless life was spent roving among London, Paris and Brussels, displaying his traveling Indian Gallery (and making a living from it), toeing that precarious line between artist and impresario. The author thoughtfully explores the complicated bleeding of empathy into exploitation. Eisler's fine, thorough work begs for a fresh reappraisal of this pioneering artist.
Sterling North
“Ralph Moody's books "should be read aloud in every family circle in America."”

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Product Details

Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
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6.60(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.50(d)

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