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Overview

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. 183.    

VAPOUR BATH (Minatarree).—Most of the Indian tribes practice vapour bathing, both for various indispositions and as matter of luxury. The patient sits in a crouching position in his willow basket, whilst water is thrown upon heated stones placed underneath him, and, in the highest state of perspiration, plunges head foremost into the river, at all seasons of the year. 

Provenance

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 History
1968
Loan for display with permanent collection, Phoenix Art Museum, 1968-1969.
1970
Exhibition of George Catlin Paintings, Allentown Art Museum, Pennsylvania, 1970.
1976
Extended loan for use by The Supreme Court of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1976-1977.
1989
A Gallery Revived: North American Indian Paintings by George Catlin, Buffalo Bill Historical Center, Cody, Wyoming, 1989.
1990
North American Indian Paintings by George Catlin (NGA National Lending Service exhibition), Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington, 1990-1991.
1992
North American Indian Paintings by George Catlin (NGA National Lending Service exhibition), Palm Springs Desert Museum, 1992-1993.
1993
North American Indian Paintings by George Catlin (NGA National Lending Service exhibition), Boise Art Museum, Idaho, 1993.
1994
North American Indian Paintings by George Catlin (NGA National Lending Service exhibition), Hofstra Museum, Hofstra University, Hempstead, New York, 1994.
1994
North American Indian Paintings by George Catlin (NGA National Lending Service exhibition), West Bend Gallery of Fine Arts, Wisconsin, 1994.
1995
North American Indian Paintings by George Catlin (NGA National Lending Service exhibition), Lore Degenstein Gallery, Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania, 1995.
1995
North American Indian Paintings by George Catlin (NGA National Lending Service exhibition), Payne Gallery, Moravian College, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, 1995, unnumbered brochure.
Bibliography
1970
American Paintings and Sculpture: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1970: 27.
1980
American Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1980: 121, repro.
1992
American Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 103, repro.