(b. 1796, Wilkes-Barre, d. 1872, Jersey City)
The Last Race, Mandan O-Kee-Pa Ceremony1832
Oil on canvas mounted on aluminium, 59 x 71 cm
National Museum of American Art, Washington
The American George Catlin addressed himself to documenting Native American peoples in the face of their imminent destruction. He sent the 'Indian Gallery' to Paris in the 1840s after it had toured in America and Britain. Catlin had abandoned a successful career as a portrait painter in Washington to document the lives and culture of Native Americans west of the Mississippi. One of the pictures in the gallery, The Last Race, Mandan 0-Kee-Pa Ceremony shows an innocent style, purged of academicism. But despite Catlin's genuine zeal to preserve the 'monuments of a noble race', he accepted that the Native Americans were 'doomed and must perish', and that their ultimate destiny was to yield their land to white Christian settlers.