Catlin painting
George Catlin, Catlin Painting the Portrait of Mah-to-toh-pa—Mandan, 1861/1869, National Gallery of Art, Paul Mellon Collection

George 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 in its collection. This one 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.


National Gallery of Art