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2011 Catalog > 2. Catlin’s Deluxe Portfolio, plate no. 4



2. Catlin’s Deluxe Portfolio, plate no. 4

George Catlin. “Catching the Wild Horse.” Folio plate no. 4 from Catlin’s North American Indian Portfolio. Hunting Scenes and Amusements of the Rocky Mountains and Prairies of America. From Drawings and Notes of the Author, Made during Eight Years’ Travel amongst Forty-Eight of the Wildest and Most Remote Tribes of Savages in North America. (London: J. E. Adlard, 1844 [Bohn, 1845], first edition, third issue). Hand-colored lithograph by Day & Haghe, Lithographers to the Queen. Deluxe issue: mounted to hand-ruled card with inscribed number. Image: 12 1/8 x 17 3/4." Textured wood frame with slate-blue finish and double mat: 21 1/2 x 27." Very minor age toning; a few minor spots. Excellent condition by sight.

Price: SOLD.

In this struggle, which . . . generally lasts about half an hour, there is a desperate contention for the mastery, which is easily seen to be decided by reason and invention, rather than by superiority in brute force. The Indian leans back upon his halter, which is firmly held in both hands, and as his horse is getting breath and strength to rise, repeatedly checks it, preventing it from gaining any advantage; and gradually advances, hand over hand upon the tightened halter, towards the horse's head, until [it] . . . allows the caressing hand of its new master to pat it on the nose, and in a few minutes to cover its eyes, when the exchange of a few deep-drawn breaths from their meeting nostrils seems to compromise the struggle; the animal discovering in its conqueror, instead of an enemy, a friend . . . for the rest of its life. — George Catlin

During the 1830s, Catlin lived for years among the various North American Indian tribes, studying their ways. His published works provide us with the most authentic anthropological record of these already vanishing people.

A young lawyer turned portraitist, George Catlin traveled west from his home in Pennsylvania in 1830 to fulfill his dream of recording on canvas the North American Indians and their way of life. It was his desire, he said, to paint “faithful portraits of their principal personages, both men and women, from each tribe, views of their villages games, etc., and [to keep] full notes on their character and history. I designed, also, to procure their costumes, and a complete collection of their manufactures and weapons, and to perpetuate them in a Gallery Unique, for the instruction of the ages.” — Henry R. Wagner

Catlin’s Gallery included more than four hundred painted portraits and scenes of tribal life, from which the illustrations for his books were drawn. Shortly after taking his “Gallery” to England for an extended period, Catlin self-published the first of the many editions of the North American Indian Portfolio. The prints were completed by the British lithographic firm Day & Haghe. Two first editions were issued: the “regular . . . in printed tints” for five guineas and the de luxe for eight guineas, printed in tints and hand colored.

The record Catlin created is unique, both in the breadth of information and in the depth of the sympathetic understanding that his images demonstrate. Catlin described the American Indian as “an honest, hospitable, faithful, brave, warlike, cruel, revengeful, relentless,—yet honourable, contemplative, and religious being.” He saw no future for either the Indian way of life or his 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. Catlin’s study remains one of the most widely circulated works on American Indians written in the nineteenth century, and the illustrations are valued for their highly important visual documentation of indigenous Indian life in the American West.

Refs.: Howes C-243; McCracken, no. 10; Sabin no. 11532, Wagner-Camp-Becker, no. 105a-1.

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