Last week the museum hosted an adult program called Sid’s Studio, in which we created landscape paintings inspired by the works of George Catlin.
While Catlin is known for his portraits and scenes of everyday life of American Indians, at the foundation of his paintings are his landscapes. When Catlin made his first trips up the Missouri River in 1830 and 1832, he was enraptured by the landscape. Although the Philadelphian portraitist originally intended to paint the Native Americans themselves, the artist felt compelled to depict their prairies, rivers, and hills as well.
In his Letters and Notes, Catlin wrote:
There is no more beautiful prairie country in the world, than that which is to be seen in this vicinity…The surface of the country is gracefully and slightly undulating, like the swells of the retiring ocean after a heavy storm.
Later, while traveling with an expedition of military dragoons in 1834 through the Arkansas Territory, the artist was again enchanted by the geography of his journey.
The landscape scenes of these wild and beautiful regions are, of themselves, a rich reward for the traveler who can place them in his portfolio; and being myself the only one accompanying the dragoons for scientific purposes, there will be an additional pleasure to be derived from those pursuits.
During our Sid’s Studio program, we studied and discovered the intricacies of Catlin’s landscapes. Like him, we layered our paintings, first establishing our background. After a sketching trip to the galleries for inspiration (and to let our first layer of paint dry), we returned to our canvases to complete our landscape compositions. I think our participants derived as much pleasure from these pursuits as George Catlin did during his 1830s excursions West.