Catlin, Catlin Painting the Portrait of Mah-to-toh-paMandan (detail), 1861/1869, National Gallery of Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Catlin is best known as a painter of the American Indians. After seeing
a delegation of Plains Indians in Philadelphia, he decided to dedicate
his life to recording the lives and customs of Native Americans. Soon
after completing law school, Catlin became a professional artist. He
traveled extensively throughout North
America in the 1830s and he visited South
America in the 1850s, painting hundreds of Indians and keeping detailed
records of his journeys.
The National Gallery has more than 350 paintings
by Catlin. This picture shows the artist painting Mah-to-toh-pa,
a Mandan chief, while members of the tribe watch the artist at work. Following
his extensive travels, Catlin put his paintings on view in an exhibition
he called The Indian Gallery.