“Picturing the American Buffalo: George Catlin and Modern Native American Artists”

Left: Fritz Scholder (Luiseño), Artist at Forty as a Buffalo, 1977, color lithograph on paper, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Adelyn D. Breeskin, 1977.96
George Catlin, Buffalo Bull, Grazing on the Prairie, 1832-1833, oil on canvas, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Mrs. Joseph Harrison, Jr., 1985.66.404
Jaune Quick-To-See Smith (Confederated Slaish and Kootenai), Untitled, from the portfolio Indian Self-Rule,1983, color lithograph on paper, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the Institute of the American West © Jaune Quick-To-See Smith

Published October 13, 2019

WASHINGTON — The Smithsonian American Art Museum announces the opening of the “Picturing the American Buffalo: George Catlin and Modern Native American Artists.

In the nineteenth century, American bison (commonly called the buffalo) thundered across the Great Plains of the American West in the millions. They symbolized the abundance of the land, and for centuries played a vital role in the lives of Native Americans, providing sustenance and spiritual nourishment. Wild and majestic, revered and hunted, buffalo have long captured the popular imagination, and their iconic images figure prominently in America’s art.
“Picturing the American Buffalo: George Catlin and Modern Native American Artists” considers the representation of the American buffalo from two perspectives: a selection of paintings by George Catlin (1796–1872) and works by modern Native artists Woody Crumbo, Paul Goodbear, Allan Houser, Julián Martínez, Jaune Quick-To-See Smith, Fritz Scholder, Awa Tsireh, Thomas Vigil and Beatien Yazz. In the 1830s, Catlin journeyed west five times to record, as he called it, the “manners and customs” of Native cultures, painting scenes and portraits from life. His ambitious project was largely fueled by the fear that American Indians, the great buffalo herds and a way of life would one day vanish.
The 20th-century sculpture and works on paper included in this installation advance a narrative reassuringly different from Catlin’s: one of vibrance and continuity. With an innovative use of line, form and color, each work affirms both tribal presence and the enduring importance of the buffalo to American Indian cultures. All 45 works on view are from the permanent collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
The exhibition is on view Oct. 11 to April 12, 2020.
The Smithsonian American Art Museum is the home to one of the largest and most inclusive collections of American art in the world. Its artworks reveal America’s rich artistic and cultural history from the colonial period to today. The museum’s main building is located at Eighth and F streets N.W., above the Gallery Place/Chinatown Metrorail station. Museum hours are 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily (closed Dec. 25). Admission is free. Follow the museum on FacebookInstagramTwitter and YouTube. Smithsonian information: (202) 633-1000. Museum information (recorded): (202) 633-7970. Website: americanart.si.edu.

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