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From Field to Studio: The art of Paul Kane - page 16 / 36





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PKI Teaching Guide

Page 16 of 36

This video provides details about the career of George Catlin who paved the way for Kane in many respects. Although Catlin was very sympathetic and concerned about the welfare of First Nations, his “Wild West” shows in London in the early 1840’s were the prototype for similar spectacles into the 20th century.


  • stereotypes

  • posters and advertisements as forms of persuasion

  • visual images convey ideas, messages, and perspectives

  • posters reflect social and historical contexts.

Learning Objectives:

  • understand how historical, social and environmental factors influence visual artists and

their work

  • understand the functions of visual images in posters and advertisements

  • examine ways that visual images are used to convey messages.

Video Script: Catlin’s London Show

George Catlin travelled as far west as the prairies five times in the 1830s to paint Indigenous people and document their way of life. He was certain that westward expansion by Euro-Americans was a disaster for them, and he viewed his work as a means to educate the public about this tragedy.

Catlin created hundreds of portraits and scenes in what would become one of the first important comprehensive pictorial records of Western Indigenous peoples before photography. His notes on the customs and cultures of the people he encountered are still of significant ethnographic value.

By 1840, Catlin had organized his paintings, writings, and artifacts into an exhibition at London's Egyptian Hall. This installation included nearly five hundred paintings, a Crow wigwam, thousands of costumes, weapons, and -

  • -

    at least according to some reports -- two caged grizzly bears. Catlin also staged the first Wild West show of its

kind, with white men and boys dressed up to do recreations of dances and rituals. British audiences were enthusiastic, with some 32,000 visitors to the show in the first year, and Catlin quickly achieved near-celebrity status.

George Catlin would eventually tour with a group of Ojibwa, led by chief Maungwudaus, who was a Mississauga from the Credit River area outside present-day Toronto. By amazing co-incidence, Paul Kane would eventually paint a portrait of Maungwudaus in Toronto in 1851, during one of the chief’s tours.

But the interest in Catlin’s show was relatively short-lived. Many performers succumbed, including members of Maungwudaus’ family, to diseases. Catlin would even lose his wife and one of his children. And by 1848 he had faded into relative obscurity.

Today, posters and advertisements for these shows look strange and parochial. But they are a testament to the fascination and excitement the European audiences had for the exotic and Romantic images of North America and its peoples.

Proceed to 6c. Read Exhibition Poster

6c. - Activity - Read Exhibition Poster

From Field to Studio: The art of Paul Kane

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