Sunday, November 13, 2011

The painting above was created in the 1860's by George Catlin, and shows the artist himself painting a portrait of Mah-to-toh-pa, a Mandan chief, while members of the tribe watch him work.
The painting very much centres on the chief and the act of painting by Catlin, potrayed by the glow the figure of the chief and the canvas seem to give off. This can be contrasted to the dull colour of the tribe which causes them to almost blend into one other. Catlin's european clothing is starkly contrasted with the elaborate clothing of the chief, which is very detailed unlike that of Catlin and also the tribe around him. Most of the tribe are sitting down or potrayed as stooping, causing the effect of the chief to appear as the tallest. He is also central to the painting and potrayed in a noble stance, suggesting importance. Many members of the tribe are displayed with open mouths and most seem to be watching Catlin closely suggesting they are in awe of the activity. This represents the simplicity of the Native American way of life who would not have watched an activity such as this and would have found this experience entirely new.
Many members of the tribe are displayed with weapons, Catlin is surrounded by people with bows and arrows and the chief is holding a spear. Although weaponry is primarily linked to violence, the painting gives off a sense of serenity and comfort. Catlin is clearly at ease with the tribe, and they are the same with him. This shows that the Native Americans were not always the savage and fierce characters they were often depicted to be.

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