Details: CATLIN, George (1796-1872). [Dying Buffalo Bull in a Snow Drift. [Pl. 17]. London: Henry Bohn, 1844 or 1845]. Lithograph, coloured by hand, printed by Day & Haghe, on original card mount within ink-ruled frame. Good condition with the exception of some light overall foxing. Image size (including text): 12 x 17 1/2 inches. Sheet size: 15 7/8 x 21 1/4 inches (mount).
From Catlin's 'North American Indian Portfolio', one of the most important accounts of native-American life.
"In this view the reader is introduced to the optimum of... severity which the hunters of the northern prairies have to contend with in the depths of winter. An intensely cold day, with dry and sand-like snow three or four feet in depth, drifting before the wind, and a herd of buffaloes labouring to plough their way through it, whilst they are urged on by a party of Indians on snow-shoes, deeply clad in furs... The... bull in the foreground of this picture... [was] carefully sketched by my own hand... and I therefore confidently offer them as faithful delineations of their forms and looks, as well as fit and impressive subjects for contemplation for those who may ever have the time, and feel disposed to sympathize with... this useful and noble animal."
Catlin summarized the Native American as "an honest, hospitable, faithful, brave, warlike, cruel, revengeful, relentless, -- yet honourable, contemplative and religious being". In a famous passage from the preface of his North American Indian Portfolio, Catlin describes how the sight of several tribal chiefs in Philadelphia led to his resolution to record their way of life: "the history and customs of such a people, preserved by pictorial illustrations, are themes worthy of the lifetime of one man, and nothing short of the loss of my life shall prevent me from visiting their country and becoming their historian". He saw no future for either their way of life or their very existence, and with these thoughts always at the back of his mind he worked, against time, setting himself a truly punishing schedule, to record what he saw. From 1832 to 1837 he spent the summer months sketching the tribes and then finished his pictures in oils during the winter. The record he left is unique, both in its breadth and also in the sympathetic understanding that his images constantly demonstrate. A selection of the greatest of images from this record were published in the North American Indian Portfolio in an effort to reach as wide an audience as possible. The present image is one of the results of this publishing venture and is both a work of art of the highest quality and a fitting memorial to a vanished way of life.
Abbey Travel 653; Field Indian Bibliography 258; Howes C-243; McCracken 10; Sabin 11532; Wagner-Camp 105a:1.
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