Reviews for Painting the Wild Frontier : The Art and Adventures of George Catlin


Booklist Reviews 2008 June #1
*Starred Review* Reich's own words ("As a white person writing about American Indians, I have tried to be respectful . . . but, like George, I cannot completely erase my cultural biases, no matter how hard I try,") reflect the dominant theme of her handsome biography of  nineteenth-century painter George Catlin, famous for his portraits of Native American life. Underlying the lucid, detailed discussion of the artist, which is illustrated with beautiful archival prints and photographs of his work, are the whites' conflicting views of Indian peoples, then and now--especially the image of the "noble savage." Quoting extensively from Catlin's letters and notes, Reich shows how he was driven to paint authentic cultural rituals and individuals, to champion the Indians'cause, and to record their rich, vanishing way of life in all its diversity. At the same time, she never denies that Catlin exploited his subjects, exhibiting the "primitives," in the U.S. and abroad. There are long captions with the paintings, and the extensive back matter includes thorough chapter notes, a bibliography, and a time line. A great introduction to Catlin's work as well as an excellent title to use in social studies, history, and art classes. Copyright 2008 Booklist Reviews.

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Horn Book Guide Reviews 2009 Spring
Reich examines the life of Catlin, a man who traveled extensively in the West during the nineteenth century, painting portraits of American Indians. The text traces the development of his career and the range of his works. Catlin's biases and prejudices are also explored and contextualized. Some color plates of Catlin's work are interspersed with black-and-white reproductions. Timeline, websites. Bib., ind. Copyright 2008 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

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Kirkus Reviews 2008 June #2
With graceful writing and fascinating artwork, this well-designed biography explores the work and adventures of George Catlin. Best known for his many paintings of American Indians, Catlin traveled extensively in the American West and South America in the mid-1800s. He lived rough and encountered many dangers, some life-threatening. His own writing proves a fertile source of lively stories and quotations: He described being attacked by a jaguar that he was hunting, possibly for its tail, which he recommended for its "deliciousness of flavor." Reich places Catlin's life in the context of art history and provides an overview of the Indian tribes he encountered and their plights. The complex portrait of Catlin is even-handed; he hoped to champion the cause of Indians but also partly exploited them to make his living. While he created a remarkable historical record, his family suffered financially and by his prolonged absences. An author's note addresses the challenges of a white author's writing about Indians and the reliability of Catlin's writing. A handsome, well-documented volume. (timeline, endnotes, bibliography; map, index not seen) (Biography. 12 & up) Copyright Kirkus 2008 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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School Library Journal Reviews 2008 August

Gr 5-8-- Using primary sources, including Catlin's own diaries and letters, Reich helps readers understand the importance of the artist's work and to see him as a man in his own time. The personal documents expose both selfless and selfish sides of his character. At times, he was sensitive to the Native peoples and their cultures, but he also used them for his own gain. Readers also see the artist as a neglectful family man and less-than-successful businessman; however, above all, Catlin is seen as an adventurer. Many of his paintings illustrate the text and add to a sense of excitement. A few of the larger reproductions are in color, giving a clearer view of the artist's palette and style. Other period works are also included. All are well captioned with additional identification and information that ties in to the text. Quotations are carefully documented in chapter footnotes. The author's note explains her choice of terminology and spelling as well as her efforts to avoid cultural bias in writing this book. This is an excellent choice for libraries looking for good biographies, either for reports or pleasure reading.--Carolyn Janssen, Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, OH

[Page 150]. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

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VOYA Reviews 2008 October
Although trained as a lawyer, George Catlin is best known for his work painting Native Americans during the nineteenth century. His enormous body of work, which includes more than 300 portraits, provides a detailed record of a way of life that was disappearing even as he struggled to make his work known. Reich's chronicle of Catlin's adventurous life captures his many complexities. He was both an artist and a businessman; a devoted father who abandoned his family for months, sometimes years at a time; and an admirer and an exploiter of native peoples. Catlin was a product of his own time, and he often viewed Native Americans through a romantic lens. Although he intended his artwork as a call to the Indian's plight, his methods were at times offensive to the very people he proposed to help. Aware of her own cultural biases, Reich is careful to give voice to modern Native representatives so that readers can gain a more complete perspective on Catlin and his work. Thorough bibliographic information makes this source excellent for reports and research, while Reich's readable style will draw biography and history buffs. Black-and-white paintings and photographs illustrate nearly every page, with eight full-color paintings, to give the reader a glimpse of the intricate details in his work. Two maps give a general idea of Catlin's routes, although Reich makes it clear that a definitive itinerary of his travels is unavailable because of Catlin's affinity for exaggeration.-Heather Christensen Index. Illus. Photos. Maps. Biblio. Further Reading. Chronology. 4Q 3P J S Copyright 2008 Voya Reviews.

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