Science, Ecology and Romanticism in George Catlin’s travelling "Indian Gallery"
Status: This talk is in preparation - details may change
Status: This talk has been cancelled
This meeting has been cancelled.
Over the course of five visits to the American West in the 1830s, George Catlin (b.1796) created a collection of Native American portraits and artifacts, which he toured using a range of performance strategies such as lectures and audience participation. While most scholarship focuses either on figurations of the ‘vanishing Indian’ in his paintings or the museological aspects of his gallery, my paper characterises Catlin’s work as occupying a point of juncture between European and American romanticism, and between literary/artistic Romantic movements and burgeoning scientific disciplines. I apply to visual culture the suggestion of Bruce Greenfield, who argues that American romantic literature, particularly Thoreau, provided imaginative ‘first contacts’ through which readers could ‘know’ the land. Catlin’s gallery, however, provided frontier simulations that were multi-sensorial, engaging a more embodied form of knowledge. I also develop the work of Richard Sha, who argues that Romanticism was linked with science via the role of the imagination. By considering the spatial-temporal experiences of particular forms of visual culture, I chart the ways in which Catlin’s gallery engaged (historical) imagination and sewed lines between ecology, anthropology, and history.
Date: 30 May 2024, 12:30 (Thursday, 6th week, Trinity 2024)
Venue: History Faculty, George Street OX1 2RL
Venue Details: Merze Tate Room
Speaker: Ruka Hussain
Organising department: Faculty of History
Part of: Environmental History Working Group
Booking required?: Not required
Audience: Members of the University only
Editor: Belinda Clark