Thursday, November 24, 2005

Chief Celebratory Portraits

"He has painted the Indian lineaments on the spot, and is entitled to patronage — not as supplying all that is desirable, or practicable, perhaps, but as a first and original effort. We should cherish all such work."
HR Schoolcraft
'Four Legs'/Winnebago Chief

'Foremost in Battle'/Sioux Chief

Ojibwa/Chippewa Chief

'Rattle Snake'/Winnebago Chief

'Brewett'/Miami Chief

Potawatomi/Pottowattomie Chief

James Otto Lewis attended treaty council meetings in the Great Lakes region between 1825 and 1827 on a commission from the Indian Department. His portraits were to be distributed as hand coloured lithographs to subscribers in 10 installments with a subsequent circular recording his interviews of the native American Chiefs that sat for him.

It is unknown whether his recollections were ever published. The venture hurt Lewis financially and the last few installments were issued in reduced numbers. The engraving and hand colouring was carried out by Lehman & Duval lithographers of Philadelphia in 1836. This series of 80 portraits is held in high regard, judging from my reading around, in so far as they were the first organized portraits of a large number of Chiefs. The original paintings were destroyed in a fire at the Smithsonian Institution in 1865.

A rare complete set of the lithographs from The Aboriginal Port Folio or a Collection of Portraits of the Most Celebrated Chiefs of the North American Indians is hosted by the Indiana Historical Society (and no doubt other institutions).

[Is it Thanksgiving yet? Should it be capitalized? Is it one word? I suppose I could search that for myself.]

I see a quiet dignity in the faces of the portrait subjects. Previous North American Indian lithographs.

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