George Catlin: American Indian Portraits

An extraordinary series of portraits of Native American Indians painted by the artist George Catlin between 1830 and his death in 1872.

George Catlin’s fascination for Native American Indians began in childhood, through the stories told by his mother and the brief glimpses of the tribes who occasionally passed through Philadelphia.

In 1830 he went west in order to document these vanishing races, amassing some 50 portraits of Cheyenne, Crow, Blackfeet and Hidatsa tribes over a period of eight years. The results were the ‘Indian Gallery’, a touring exhibition Catlin organised along the East Coast, giving lectures about the customs of the tribes and his experience of living with them.

When interest waned in America, Catlin went overseas, taking his exhibition to Europe where his depictions of proud, heroic warriors still resonate as an image of Native American Indians today.  

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Buffalo Bull’s Back Fat (named after a prized cut of bison) was a chief of the Blackfoot, a tribe of the northernmost Plains whose territory straddled the present-day border between the United States and Canada. Catlin considered the people of the northern plains the least corrupted by white contact.

Venue details

National Portrait Gallery St Martin's Place London WC2H 0HE 020 7306 0055

Entry details


Free entry to all

Sat – Wed, 10am – 6pm
Thu – Fri, 10am – 9pm

Closed 24 – 26 Dec