Thursday, January 9, 2014

Catlin and his Indian Pictures Wow Albany, May-June 1837



Wah-ro-née-sah (The Surrounder), a chief of the Otoe tribe.
George Catlin, 1832.
Seven or eight years ago I found this item on microfilm at the New York State Library.  Herman Melville's uncle Peter Gansevoort and 36 other eminent citizens of Albany joined to endorse Catlin's recent lectures and paintings in a public testimonial of thanks. From the Albany Evening Journal, Friday, June 30, 1837.  Now also available online in the archives of historical newspapers at genealogybank.com

MR. CATLIN’S INDIAN PICTURES.—

We publish with peculiar satisfaction, the following testimonial of a portion of our citizens, in favor of the exceedingly rich, various and valuable collection of Indian portraits, costumes and curiosities in Mr. Catlin’s gallery.  It is a tribute justly paid to genius and merit.  And it is the more valuable, being a spontaneous offering from those who have seen and admired this splendid collection of paintings—a collection which, in coming ages, when time shall have touched the canvass with its mellowing tints, will give the artist a name among the brightest that adorn at the annals of genius.  Mr. CATLIN goes from this city to New York, where there is taste to appreciate and munificence to reward, an enterprise of genius, enthusiasm and philanthropy, which reflects so much honor on the American character—:

CATLIN’S INDIAN PORTRAITS, LECTURES, &c. &c.

Having attended Mr. Catlin’s Lectures, recently delivered at Stanwix Hall, upon the character, manners, and customs of the various tribes of the North American Indians, we deem it due to him to express the great pleasure and instruction which we have derived from them.  Never before have we heard this interesting subject treated by one equally well qualified to do justice and communicate full and accurate information in relation to it.  Mr. C. having for many years past, been engaged in exploring the far west, visiting all the various Indian tribes, from the most northerly regions to the borders of Texas—and as far west as the Rocky Mountains, has in this manner, aided by his personal address and talent as an artist; been enabled to secure the confidence and good will of the Indians, to obtain portraits from life, of the most interesting individuals in each tribe, to take sketches from nature, of all that was new or remarkable in the productions, animals and scenery of the country, to witness their sports, and their religious and warlike ceremonies, (of all of which he has drawings taken on the spot,) to procure specimens of their finest dresses, ornaments, domestic and warlike implements, and to become better acquainted than any other person whom we have ever before had an opportunity of hearing, with their history, traditions, feelings and opinions.

Interesting as are his remarks, they are rendered more so, by being accompanied in all cases, with the exhibition at the same time of the portraits of the persons or sketches of the scenes or the occurrences he is describing.  His collections of portraits and drawings, several hundred in number, independently of the merit many of them possess as mere works of art, are highly valuable and interesting, as conveying vivid and accurate impressions of the appearance of the country, its inhabitants and most striking objects.

Mr. Catlin possesses, and has both the ability and the disposition to communicate, a fund of knowledge in relation to this subject, which can rarely if ever again be acquired, and it is therefore to be hoped, that the opportunity now presented of obtaining authentic and valuable information upon it, will not be suffered to pass unimproved.
J.N. CAMPBELL,                TEUNIS VAN VECHTEN,
H. RECTOR,                        D. D. BARNARD,
PETER GANSEVOORT,      HENRY L. WEBB,
L.F.NEWLANDS,                J. WINNE, JR.,
JOHN MEADS,                   JOHN DAVIS,
T. ROMEYN BECK,            JAMES STEVENSON,
P. BULLIONS,                     JOHN S. WALSH,
J. T. B. VAN VECHTEN,      RICH. VAN RENSSELAER,
THOMAS LEE,                    GIDEON HAWLEY,
DANIEL S. KITTLE,             JOHN A. DIX,
W. B. HASKIN.                   A. C. FLAGG,
P. H. TEN EYCK,                R. M. MEIGS,
HUGH HUMPHREY,            JAMES M’KOWN,
WM. JAMES,                      THURLOW WEED,
ELIHU RUSSELL,                JAMES M’NAUGHTON,
W. THORBURN,                  JONATHAN EIGHTS,
ORLANDO MEADS,            WM. ALVORD,
W. B. SPRAGUE,                RICH’D VARICK DEWITT,
                         HERMAN V. HART.
 Albany, June 27, 1837
Stanwix Hall, Albany c. 1880
Catlin's exhibit opened in May, as reported in the Albany Evening Journal, Saturday, May 13, 1837:

Catlin’s Indian Portraits and Curiosities.—We call the attention of our citizens to this splendid and deeply interesting collection, now open for exhibition at Stanwix Hall.  Mr. Catlin has been employed in completing it for more than six years among the Western wilds, and has succeeded to an extent that will richly repay public patronage.  The collection contains 200 portraits of individuals from 38 of the wildest of the Western tribes, painted from life, and all certified to be correct likenesses.  There is also a series of 40 landscape views on the Upper Missouri, which are most striking, novel and picturesque, together with other paintings, splendid specimens of native costume, &c. &c.  The exhibition of the paintings is accompanied with suitable explanations by Mr. C.  We advise all to improve this unequalled opportunity of becoming acquainted with the actual appearance, dress, condition, &c. of these savage tribes—the last uncontaminated specimens of their race—who, unchanged by civilization, yet find shelter among the remote fastnesses of the “Far West.”

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