Abandoning his career as a barrister, George Catlin moved to Philadelphia and set up shop as a portrait painter. A visiting delegation of Indians rekindled his lifelong interest in native Americans, and shortly thereafter, he began making plans to travel west.
Inspired by the examples of Charles Willson Peale's art, work on natural history, and ethnographic museum, the explorer-artist set out with easel and paints strapped to his back on a mission to record the vanishing tribes. After exhibiting his work in several East Coast cities, Catlin set sail for Europe in 1839 with eight tons of Indian artifacts as well as his own pictures. His spirited lectures and his collections captivated audiences in London and Paris.
In 1847, King Louis Philippe commissioned him to do a series of paintings illustrating the voyages of La Salle, the seventeenth-century French explorer of the Great Lakes and Mississippi River. La Salle's Party Feasted in the Illinois Village re-creates an event that took place on 2 January 1680. With his firsthand experience of contemporary Indians, Catlin captured the mood of the ceremony, while his quick, feathery method of painting exquisitely conveys the effect of snow frosting the trees, tepees, and wigwams.
lower right: G. Catlin p.
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.
- 26 paintings by George Catlin from the Paul Mellon Collection, Old Courthouse, Jefferson National Expansion Memorial (National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior), St. Louis, Missouri, 1965-1968, no. 10, repro.
- Voyages of Discovery by La Salle, St. Paul Art Center, Minnesota, 1968.
- Westward the Artist [Third Anniversary Exhibition], Lakeview Center for the Arts and Sciences, Peoria, Illinois, 1968, no. 32.
- [The La Salle Series], Amon Carter Museum of Western Art, Fort Worth, 1970.
- An Exhibition of Paintings and Lithographs by George Catlin, Artist Historian, Tennessee Fine Arts Center, Nashville, 1971, no. 45, repro.
- Voyages of Discovery by La Salle, Northern Virginia Fine Arts Association, Alexandria, 1972.
- [Catlin exhibition], Art Museum of South Texas, Corpus Christi, 1973.
- Voyages of Discovery by La Salle, Phoenix Art Museum, 1973-1974.
- Voyages of Discovery by La Salle, Missouri Historical Society, St. Louis, 1977.
- Inaugural Exhibition, The Community Art Gallery, Santa Fe Community College, Gainesville, Florida, 1978.
- American Indian Life: Paintings by George Catlin, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1980.
- George Catlin: The Indian Gallery & The Voyages of La Salle, The Mansfield Art Center, Ohio, 1980, no. 61.
- Two Hundred Years of American Paintings, 1700-1900, Inaugural Exhibition, The Museum of Arts and Sciences, Macon, Georgia, 1981, no. 15 (and listed separately pp. 69-72).
- George Catlin: An American View, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, 1988.
- Voyages of Discovery: History Paintings by George Catlin (NGA National Lending Service exhibition), Live Oak Gardens Foundation, Inc. [now Rip Van Winkle Gardens on Jefferson Island], New Iberia, Louisiana, 1992.
- Voyages of Discovery: History Paintings by George Catlin (NGA National Lending Service exhibition), The Lowe Art Museum, Coral Gables, Florida, 1993.
- American Paintings and Sculpture: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1970: 37.
- American Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1980: 81, repro.
- Williams, William James. A Heritage of American Paintings from the National Gallery of Art. New York, 1981: 80, color repro. 90.
- American Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 132, repro.
- National Gallery of Art, Washington. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 225, repro.