George Catlin
The White Cloud, Head Chief of the Iowas, 1844/1845
Oil on canvas
27 15/16 x 22 13/16 in. (71 x 58 cm)
Paul Mellon Collection 1965.16.347
Image Courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington


George Catlin’s depiction of White Cloud, a chief of the Iowa tribe, is characteristic of his portraits of prominent Native Americans for his itinerant “Indian Gallery.” While traveling throughout the western frontier to document and preserve Native American culture, Catlin sought to accurately render the individuality of his distinguished subjects. Here, White Cloud’s high status and record of personal achievement are reflected in his equally elaborate headdress and necklaces and also in the painted markings on his face and body. Demanding itineraries forced Catlin to work quickly, usually painting the facial details and unique personal attributes in situ, while later completing bodies and backgrounds in a studio. His paintings were widely exhibited at venues in the United States and abroad, including at the Louvre and the Paris Salon, where they garnered praise from such leading French cultural figures as Victor Hugo, Eugène Delacroix, and Charles Baudelaire.
Select facts derived from the collection object page: The White Cloud, Head Chief of the Iowas.


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