St. Louis Mercantile Library


George Catlin, Catching the Wild Horse
George Catlin (1796-1872) Catching the Wild Horse, 1844-45
George Catlin (1796-1872)
Catching the Wild Horse, 1844-45, hand-colored lithograph
Collection of the St. Louis Mercantile Library at the University of Missouri - St. Louis

Pennsylvania native George Catlin was among the first American artists to visit and depict the Plains Indians. As evidence of his dedication to creating a visual record of the tribes, Catlin spent some eight years traveling among the forty-eight North American Indian tribes. In addition to documenting the lives of the native peoples, his sketches and paintings provided the first and most important record of land west of the Mississippi River before white settlement.

During the 1830's, Catlin created finished paintings based on the sketches he had made during his travels. He exhibited the paintings along with artifacts he had gathered in his “Indian Gallery.” The Gallery was incredibly successful in major American cities including Philadelphia, New York, Washington and Boston before achieving similar acclaim in London and other major cities on the Continent. In 1844, Catlin issued "The North American Indian Portfolio" featuring lithographs with subjects ranging from individual and group portraits to scenes of tribal ceremonies and events of everyday life.