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After Columbus: Four-hundred Years of Native American Portraiture

369 prints and drawings by Simon van de Passe (1595-1647), George Catlin (1796-1872), and Karl Bodmer (1809-1893), dating from 1627 to the 1830s; 227 gelatin silver and platinum prints by photographers Edward S. Curtis (1868-1954), Karl E. Moon (1878-1948), and Frank A. Rinehart (1862-1928), and sculptor Frederic Allen Williams (1898-1958), from the late 1890s to 1927.

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Karl Bodmer, 1809-1893. Moennitarri warrior in the costume of the Dog dance. Digital ID: 479898 Karl Bodmer, 1809-1893. Moennitarri warrior in the costume of the Dog dance. Digital ID: 479898

Collection History

This digital presentation draws upon an exhibition presented by the Library in 1994, Four Hundred Years of Native-American Portraits, on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of Columbus's discovery of the Americas. Offering a selective view of the history of Native American portraiture, drawn exclusively from the Library's collections, it reprised an earlier Library exhibition held in the then-new landmark building on Fifth Avenue in 1912. In that same year the last of the contiguous United States territories achieved statehood, a political act that symbolically and literally closed the "frontier" phase of United States history.

Background

The New York Public Library's collection of Native American portraiture has its foundation in early gifts and purchases from Dr.Wilberforce Eames, the Library's bibliographer and former Librarian of the Lenox Library, and from J. P. Morgan, who helped sponsor Edward S. Curtis's monumental survey, The North American Indian (1907-30). Curtis's extensive series had precedents in several earlier works, notably those by Karl Bodmer and George Catlin both of whose drawings from the early 1830s were published later as color prints.

Related Resources

"Exhibition of Portraits of American Indians"; Bulletin of The New York Public Library 16 (1912): 451-53.

"Four Hundred Years of Native-American Portraits: Prints and Photographs from the Collections of The New York Public Library." Biblion II, 1 (Fall 1993): 100–140, illus.

Weitenkampf, Frank. Early Pictures of North American Indians: A Question of Ethnology (1950).

6/25/2004

Library Division(s)

NYPL Digital Gallery provides free and open access to over 800,000 images digitized from primary sources and printed rarities in the vast collections of The New York Public Library, including drawings, illuminated manuscripts, historical maps, vintage posters, rare prints and photographs, illustrated books, printed ephemera, and more.