The Red Man's Bones
George Catlin, Artist and Showman
By Benita Eisler
(W. W. Norton & Company, Hardcover, 9780393066166, 468pp.)
Publication Date: July 2013
List Price: $29.95*
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Political forces thwarted Catlin's ambition to sell what he called his Indian Gallery as a national collection, and in 1840 the artist began three decades of self-imposed exile abroad. For a time, his exhibitions and writings made him the most celebrated American expatriate in London and Paris. He was toasted by Queen Victoria and breakfasted with King Louis-Philippe, who created a special gallery in the Louvre to show his pictures. But when he started to tour live troupes of Ojibbewa and Iowa, Catlin and his fortunes declined: He changed from artist to showman, and from advocate to exploiter of his native performers. Tragedy and loss engulfed both.
This brilliant and humane portrait brings to life George Catlin and his Indian subjects for our own time. An American original, he still personifies the artist as a figure of controversy, torn by conflicting demands of art and success.