During the mid-19th century, George Catlin created two large collections of paintings featuring Indian portraits, genre scenes, and western landscapes. The first collection, which he called his "Indian Gallery," included more than 500 works completed during the 1830s. Most of the surviving paintings from this group are now at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, DC. During the 1850s and 1860s, Catlin created a second collection, numbering more than 600 works, which he called his "Cartoon Collection." The surviving works from this collection were acquired by the American Museum of Natural History in New York in 1912. Paul Mellon purchased more than 300 paintings from the Cartoon Collection when they were deaccessioned. In 1965, he gave 351 works from this collection to the National Gallery of Art.
When Catlin exhibited the Cartoon Collection in New York in 1871, he published a catalog listing all the works. The catalog entries often included additional information about the subject of each painting. Catlin's catalog entry for this painting follows.
Cart. No. 60. Iowá.
Portraits of 14 Indians who visited Paris and London in 1845, in charge of Mr. Melody, of Missouri.
a. -- Mu-hú-she-kaw (The White Cloud); a chief.
b. -- Néu-mon-ye (The Walking Rain); a war chief.
c. -- See-nón-ty-a (The Blister Feet); a medicine man.
d. -- Wásh-ke mon-ye (The Fast Dancer).
e. -- Shón-ta-y-ée-ga (The Little Wolf); a warrior.
f. -- No-ho-mún-ye (He who Gives no Attention).
g. -- Wa-ton-ye (The Foremost Man).
h. -- Wa-tá-wee-búck a-nah (Commanding General); a boy.
i. -- Ru-ton-ye-wée-me (The Strutting Pigeon).
j. -- Ru-ton-wée-me (Pigeon on the Wing).
k. -- O-ke-wée-me (Female Bear that walks on the back of another).
l. -- Koon-za-ya-me (Female War Eagle).
m. -- Ta-pa-tá-me (Wisdom); a girl.
n. -- Corsair; (a pappoose).
The Iowa is at present but a small tribe of 1400, living on the lower Missouri, 1845.
George Catlin [1796-1872]; by descent to his daughters, Clara Gregory Catlin, Louise Catlin Kinney, and Elizabeth Wing Catlin; purchased 1912 from Elizabeth Wing Catlin by the American Museum of Natural History; sold 1959 through (Kennedy Galleries, New York) to Mr. Paul Mellon, Upperville, VA; gift 1965 to the NGA.
- [Exhibition], Arkansas Arts Center, Little Rock; Arkansas Artmobile state-wide tour, 1966-1968 (organized by Department of Education, State of Arkansas).
- Inaugural Exhibition and Loan for display with permanent collection, Texas Technical University Museum, Lubbock, 1970-1974.
- Extended loan for use by Ambassadors Louis Arthur Tambs and Charles A. Gillespie, U.S. Embassy residence, Bogotà, Colombia, 1983-1986.
- I Like America. Fictions of the Wild West, Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, 2006-2007, no. 30, repro.
- American Paintings and Sculpture: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1970: 27.
- American Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1980: 77, repro.
- American Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 72, repro.