Black Hawk Painting

Creator: George Catlin

Context: This painting of the Sauk leader Black Hawk was done while Black Hawk was held in captivity after his war with the U.S. Army in Illinois in 1832.

Audience: Catlin presented this and other paintings of Native Americans to Congress, who rejected them. He then took his works to Europe where they were greatly admired.

Purpose: To humanize Native Americans such as Black Hawk for easterners who had never seen them. Since the paintings were not well received initially in the eastern U.S., this goal was not achieved. However, they became extremely popular later in the century.

Historical Significance: This and other Catlin paintings of natives in their natural environment offer a more balanced interpretation of these cultures than most other artifacts produced by whites during this period.