Fort Union, Mouth of the Yellowstone River, 2000 Miles above St. Louis

Fort Union

Description

In 1832, George Catlin travelled up the Missouri River to Fort Union, situated on what is now the Montana-North Dakota border, before making various forays further west primarily to document Native American people. Catlin considered the dwindling of Native American populations as inevitable, though regrettable, and in response concocted an idea for a "magnificent park" that would preserve both the wilderness and Native Americans alike. This idea, though never realized as Catlin intended, is largely considered the first notion of a national park system, a precursor to the National Park Service we know today. This painting, from one of the five trips Catlin made in the 1830's based out of Fort Union, gives some idea of what Catlin may have envisioned for his parks.

Situated on the prominent hill in the foreground are three Native Americans, and another four are depicted on a smaller hill further behind the first. Although these are the only clearly distinguishable, though undetailed, figures, the middle ground is dominated by close to 50 tepees arranged in rows that span most of the width of the painting and recede gradually along a diagonal into the painting's background. Fort Union is also clearly visible, situated on the bank of the Missouri River right next to the tepees. In line with Catlin's vision, the fort and tepees peacefully coexist. This is the ideal that Catlin wanted to create-land that could preserve Native American ways of life while also allowing Euro-American presence in those spaces and viewing of those peoples.

MetaData

Dublin Core

Title

Fort Union, Mouth of the Yellowstone River, 2000 Miles above St. Louis

Subject

Catlin, painting, landscape

Description

In 1832, George Catlin travelled up the Missouri River to Fort Union, situated on what is now the Montana-North Dakota border, before making various forays further west primarily to document Native American people. Catlin considered the dwindling of Native American populations as inevitable, though regrettable, and in response concocted an idea for a "magnificent park" that would preserve both the wilderness and Native Americans alike. This idea, though never realized as Catlin intended, is largely considered the first notion of a national park system, a precursor to the National Park Service we know today. This painting, from one of the five trips Catlin made in the 1830's based out of Fort Union, gives some idea of what Catlin may have envisioned for his parks.

Situated on the prominent hill in the foreground are three Native Americans, and another four are depicted on a smaller hill further behind the first. Although these are the only clearly distinguishable, though undetailed, figures, the middle ground is dominated by close to 50 tepees arranged in rows that span most of the width of the painting and recede gradually along a diagonal into the painting's background. Fort Union is also clearly visible, situated on the bank of the Missouri River right next to the tepees. In line with Catlin's vision, the fort and tepees peacefully coexist. This is the ideal that Catlin wanted to create-land that could preserve Native American ways of life while also allowing Euro-American presence in those spaces and viewing of those peoples.

Creator

George Catlin, American, 1796-1872

Source

Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM)

Date

1832

Contributor

Griffin Berlin

Rights

Public domain

Relation

Paintings and Sculpture

Format

28.5 x 36.6 cm (11 1/4 x 14 3/8 in.)

Language

En-US

Type

Painting

Identifier

1985.66.388

Coverage

Alternative Title

Fort Union

Date Created

February 22, 2018

Date Modified

March 16th, 2018

Access Rights

Public domain

Medium

Oil on canvas

Bibliographic Citation

https://americanart.si.edu/artwork/fort-union-mouth-yellowstone-river-2000-miles-above-st-louis-4063

Spatial Coverage

Fort Union

Temporal Coverage

19th Century, 1832

Accrual Method

Gift of Mrs. Joseph Harrison, Jr.

Audience

General audience

Rights Holder

https://americanart.si.edu/art/reproductions

Citation

George Catlin, American, 1796-1872, “Fort Union, Mouth of the Yellowstone River, 2000 Miles above St. Louis,” Park Culture, accessed March 6, 2021, http://parkculture.org/items/show/184.

Geolocation