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Sailing in American Art

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First Sailing of the Griffin on Lake Erie. August 7, 1679

First Sailing of the Griffin on Lake Erie. August 7, 1679

George Catlin

1847/1848 Paul Mellon Collection 1965.16.322

After many years of doing portraits, George Catlin developed a strong desire to capture the history of the Indian people in the western United States. In the 1830s Catlin began to create works such as First Sailing of the Griffin on Lake Erie. The bold colors and strong lines that Catlin uses in his works provide excellent clarity to the story that Catlin is trying to tell. For most painters of this period the focus was simply the art itself, the beauty of what was on the canvas. Catlin instead separates himself as a story teller and historian. In this example of his work, he focuses upon the intersection of European explorers with their sailing technology, and the North American inhabitants more familiar with forests and plains.

Artist Bio

George Catlin

George Catlin was born on July, 26 1796 in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania. Twenty years before Catlin’s birth his mother and grandmother were taken captive in an Indian uprising. This incident would always be in Catlin’s thoughts and would later be inspiration for his art.

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