Brian Harding


' American ethnology may be said to begin with Catlin', at least so far as the Plains tribes are concerned, according to Bernard DeVoto, in his celebration of American empire in Across the Wide Missouri (1947). 1 This judgment was restated in virtually the same words - 'American ethnology begins with Catlin' - in Michael Macdonald Mooney's introduction to an 1975 edition of the artist's letters and Notes. Clearly associating Catlin with the expansionist ideology of the antebellum period, Mooney acknowledged that 'the picture books of Manifest Destiny were colored from Catlin's palettes'. 2 More recently, Brian W. Dippie, in his excellent Catlin and His Contemporaries. The Politics of Patronage (1990), stated that he was attracted to Catlin 'because of his surpassing importance to students of American culture .. his paintings and the vision behind them have become part of our understanding of a lost America. We see the Indian past through his eyes'.



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