Skip to main content
Item #40097 Buffalo Dance. George CATLIN.

CATLIN, George (1796-1872)

Buffalo Dance

[Pl. 8] London: Chatto & Windus, [circa 1875]. Hand-coloured lithograph mounted on card within ink-ruled frame. Image size: 12 x 17 1/4 inches. Card size: 17 5/8 x 21 15/16 inches.

A fine image of the Buffalo Dance, an important practice of the Indigenous peoples of the Great Plains from Catlin's 'North American Indian Portfolio', one of the most important accounts of Indigenous American life.

Catlin describes the Buffalo Dance as a practice that is closely allied with the hunting culture of Indigenous peoples and that the dance is deemed indispensable to the success of the hunts. Catlin observes, "Amongst [the Indigenous peoples], the success of their hunts and wars is often attributed to the strict observance of several propitiatory modes of singing and dancing to the Great (or other) Spirit; soliciting his countenance, and promising to give to him, (which they always do,) by sacrificing, the choicest pieces of the animal slain in their hunts. The songs sung on these occasions are exceedingly curious, and called Medicine (Mystery) Songs. All tribes have their medicine songs peculiar for the hunting of each animal they choose to go in pursuit of, and by singing these songs they conciliate the invisible deity or spirit presiding over these animals' respective destinies, and who must necessarily be consulted in this way" (Catlin). 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 #40097

Price: $4,500.00

See all items in Native Americans
See all items by George CATLIN