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Item #20178 The War Dance. George CATLIN.

CATLIN, George (1796-1872)

The War Dance

[Pl. 29] London: Chatto & Windus, [circa 1875]. Hand-coloured lithographs, on thick paper, after Catlin, drawn on stone byJohn McGahey, printed by Day & Haghe. Sheet size: 16 x 22 1/4 inches.

One of the six rare additional images from Catlin's 'North American Indian Portfolio', one of the most important accounts of Indigenous American life.

The War Dance, or 'dance of the braves', "is peculiarly beautiful," Catlin writes, "At intervals they stop, and one of them steps into the ring, and voiciferates[sic] as loud as possible, with the most significant gesticulations, the feats of bravery which he has performed during his life...and at the same time carries his body through all the motions and gestures, which have been used during these scenes when they were transacted. At the end of his boasting, all assent to the truth of his story...and the dance begins again." This is one of the six rare unnumbered plates, whose existence remained something of a mystery until recently, when research uncovered the true history of the production of the North American Indian Portfolio. When Catlin first produced his work in 1844, he evidently intended his 25 plate folio to be the first of four volumes, and had carried work forward to the point of having produced extra lithographic stones toward the next volume. However, the collapse of his finances ended this scheme, and the publisher Henry Bohn took over the copyright of the Portfolio, producing 25 plate versions until he sold the copyright to the publishers Chatto & Windus in the early 1870s. Chatto & Windus decided to enhance their reissue of the Portfolio by printing the six extra plates, from stones which had existed unused for over thirty years. This is documented in their archives, now in the Reading University Library in England. Of the 140 sets located in the unpublished census, only about a quarter are of the 31 plate issue. Catlin summarized the Indigenous peoples he encountered as "an honest, hospitable, faithful, brave, warlike, cruel, revengeful, relentless, - yet honourable, contemplative and religious beings." 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." From 1832 to 1837, Catlin 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 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.

Item #20178

Price: $4,500.00

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