Albrecht-Kemper Museum of Art

St. Joseph, Missouri

(816) 233-7003


Catlin, Curtis, McKenney and Hall: Peoples of the Western Land


Catlin, Curtis, McKenney and Hall: Peoples of the Western Land offers a look at George Catlin's North American Indian Portfolio; photogravures by Edward Curtis (a photogravuer is a print in which photographs are reproduced in printer's ink on an intaglio printing plate); and hand-colored lithographs by Thomas McKenney and James Hall. Peoples of the Western Lands continues in the Campbell Galleries of the Albrecht-Kemper Museum of Art through Nov. 14, 1999.


George Catlin (1796 - 1872)

Catlin was the first artist to travel into the American west to make a comprehensive record of Native American culture. After witnessing a delegation of Native Americans passing through Philadelphia on their way to Washington D.C., Catlin traveled with William Clark (of Lewis and Clark fame) through the upper Missouri River Valley. The customs, manners and appearances of the tribes Catlin met, lived with and painted during his journey form the basis of the North American Indian Portfolio which he published in London in 1842. (left: George Catlin, Wounded Buffalo Bull, Plate 16 of Catlin's North American Indian Portfolio , The Kemper Portfolio, Albrecht Art Museum, Saint Joseph, Missouri)

The Albrecht-Kemper Museum of Art's copy of the Portfolio is a first British edition of the publication. A gift from the Kemper Foundations of Kansas City in 1990, the portfolio consists of 25 hand-colored lilhographs depicting the activities in the communities of the Native Americans who lived in the North American Plains during the 19th century.


Edward Curtis (1868 - 1952)

Edward S. Curtis became the best known photographer of the North American Indian peoples through The North American Indian, 20 portfolios of large photogravures and 20 volumes of illustrated text on more than 80 tribal groups living west of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. While other photographers of the time also made attempts to photograph great number of Native Americans, none rivaled Curtis's achievement with the intense scope of his project, the artistry of his photography and his dedication to a project lasting 20 years.


McKenney & Hall

Thomas McKenney served as head of the United States Bureau of Indian Affairs for many years while constantly fighting to preserve something of the Native American culture. During the winter of 1821-22, a large delegation of Indians came to see President Monroe in Washington D.C. McKenney took advantage of this opportunity to record the images of these great Indian leaders by commissioning the work of James Otto Lewis and Charles Bird King. More portraits were added over the years resulting in an impressive gallery.

Dismissed from his position by President Jackson, McKenney began to plan for the publication of a portfolio of lithographs of the Native American portrait gallery. The portfolio was first printed in 1832 with text written by James Hall based on information supplied by McKenney. In 1865 a fire at the Smithsonian destroyed almost all the original paintings from which the lithographs were drawn. McKenney and Hall's portfolio is the only remaining record of the portrait gallery.

Read more about the Albrecht-Kemper Museum of Art in Resource Library

For further biographical information on selected artists cited in this article please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

rev. 11/1/10

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