George Catlin, born Wilkes-Barre, PA 1796-died Jersey City, NJ 1872
oil on canvas
29 x 24 in. (73.7 x 60.9 cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Mrs. Joseph Harrison, Jr.
Luce Center Label
This hastily sketched group may have been one of George Catlin's first attempts at Indian portraiture in the West. “The Winnebagoes,” he wrote, “are the remnant of a once powerful and warlike tribe, but are now left in a country where they have neither beasts or men to war with; and are in a most miserable and impoverished condition. The numbers of this tribe do not exceed four thousand; and the most of them have sold even their guns and ammunition for whiskey. Like the Sioux and Menomonies that come in to this post, they have several times suffered severely with the small-pox, which has in fact destroyed the greater proportion of them.” Catlin probably painted this work at Prairie du Chien in 1830. (Catlin, Letters and Notes, vol. 2, no.52, 1841, reprint 1973; Truettner, The Natural Man Observed, 1979)