William Daniels

1813 – 1880

Native Americans at Mr Catlin’s Exhibition in 1839


Oil on Board




30(h) x 22.5(w) cms


The reverse of the picture bears the following inscription:

"A sketch by Daniels
Red Indians of North America taken from Life at Mr Catlin's Exhibition. An original sketch by J. Daniels of Liverpool"

Trained as a lawyer, Pennsylvania-born George Catlin (1796-1872) gave up his legal endeavours in order to pursue a career in art and, following an inspiring meeting with a tribal delegation of Plains Indians, Catlin was determined to honour their customs in his art. From 1832, he began to produce a vast collection of paintings and he also amassed some of the tribes' artefacts (including a 7m-high tepee) in order to bring his pictures to life.

Catlin travelled to Europe in 1839 to show his so-called `Indian Gallery` in London, Brussels and Paris and was accompanied by some Indians, who were keen to see Europe and to be simultaneously honoured for their traditions. Catlin found that the nine Ojibwas and fourteen Iowan Indians drew larger crowds and they were even invited to Windsor Castle to perform ritual dances and show off their sporting prowess to Queen Victoria. In Paris, Charles Baudelaire was impressed to see that Catlin had captured the proud and noble spirit of the Indian race.

Encouraged by this and similarly enthusiastic responses from others attending his exhibitions, Catlin tried to sell the collection of over 600 pictures en bloc to the US Government. However, failing to find an appetite amongst the Government officials for this vast archive of social history, Catlin was obliged to sell it to a collector to defray his mounting debts. It is now to be found, almost entirely complete, in the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, DC.


Private collection, UK