Cover image for Catlin and his contemporaries : the politics of patronage
Catlin and his contemporaries : the politics of patronage
Dippie, Brian W.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Lincoln : University of Nebraska Press, [1990]

Physical Description:
xix, 553 pages : illustrations ; 26 cm
General Note:
Includes index.
Reading Level:
1410 Lexile.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
N8835 .D57 1990 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks-Non circulating

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George Catlin's paintings and the vision behind them have become part of our understanding of a lost America. We see the Indian past through Catlin's eyes, imagine a younger, fresher land in his bright hues. But he spent only a few years in what he considered Indian country. The rest of his long life--more than thirty years--was devoted largely to promoting, repainting, and selling his collection--in short, to seeking patronage.

Catlin and His Contemporaries examines how the preeminent painter of western Indians before the Civil War went about the business of making a living from his work. Catlin shared with such artists as Seth Eastman and John Mix Stanley a desire to preserve a visual record of a race seen as doomed and competed with them for federal assistance. In a young republic with little institutional and governmental support available, painters, writers, and scholars became rivals and sometimes bitter adversaries.

Brian W. Dippie untangles the complex web of interrelationships between artists, government officials, members of Congress, businessmen, antiquarians and literati, kings and queens, and the Indians themselves. In this history of the politics of patronage during the nineteenth century, luminaries like Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, Henry H. Sibley, John James Audubon, Alfred Jacob Miller, and Karl Bodmer are linked with Catlin in a contest for the support of the arts, setting a precedent for later generations. That the contenders "produced so much of enduring importance under such trying circumstances," Dippie observes,"was the sought-for miracle that had seemed to elude them in their lives."

Author Notes

Brian W. Dippie is a professor of history at the University of Victoria, British Columbia. This book grew out of his earlier work The Vanishing American: White Attitudes and U. S. Indian Policy (1983).

Reviews 1

Choice Review

In the broad field of 19th-century American cultural history Dippie here explores in depth the problems, plans, and ironies surrounding George Catlin in managing his career and collections of paintings and artifacts of American Indians. Catlin's few years in the field (1830-36) were complemented by many years petitioning Congress to purchase his Indian collections, exhibiting, and publishing here and abroad. Impinging on the protagonist were other artists, principally Seth Eastman and John Mix Stanley (who depicted Indians); Catlin's nemesis Henry Rowe Schoolcraft (self-styled "Indian Historian to Congress"); a host of bureaucrats in three countries; and patrons real and potential, scientists, publishers, Indians, and the artists's wives. Dippie's synthesis of diverse material is impressive, with 85 pages of footnotes and 6 pages on primary sources. Serviceable illustrations (125 in black and white and 16 in color) accompany the text. Elsewhere Harold McCracken provides focus on art history (George Catlin and the Old Frontier, 1959) and Marjorie Catlin Roehm has edited The Letters of George Catlin and His Family (1966). Level: advanced undergraduate and above. -W. B. Miller, Colby College

Table of Contents

Prefacep. xiii
Chapter 1

p. 3

Chapter 2

p. 47

Chapter 3

p. 97

Chapter 4

p. 157

Chapter 5

p. 209

Chapter 6

p. 265

Chapter 7

p. 319

Chapter 8

p. 383

Abbreviationsp. 439
Notesp. 441
Bibliographical: Notep. 527
Indexp. 535