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Seeing America

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Shooting Flamingoes

19 x 26 1/2 in. (48.3 x 67.3 cm)

George Catlin
United States (Wilkes-Barre, PA, 1796 - 1872, Jersey City, NJ)

Object Type: Painting
Medium and Support: Oil on canvas
Credit Line: Marion Stratton Gould Fund
Accession Number: 1941.25
Link to this object
Location: Not currently on view

Shooting Flamingoes is a shocking and confusing painting to 21st century sensibilities. To our eyes, the mass killing of the flamingoes is unthinkable, sensitive as we are to the role hunting has played in the extinction of many species over the past century and a half. To our eyes, the startled native guide is an offensive stereotype, a comic, cartoon-like character next to the upright, composed figure of the hunter.

In pre-Civil War America, George Catlin, a well-known artist of the period, was commissioned to create a nine-part series to glorify the Colt rifle. Shooting Flamingoes was one image in that advertising campaign. While the original intent of this painting doesn’t invalidate our contemporary reactions, it does set the piece within a historical context that explains its initial point-of-view.

[Gallery label text, 2004]

Artist's signature, lower right: G. Catlin.1857.

Original inscription, back of stretcher: View of Etretat/20 miles from Havre - /Geo. Catlin, Buenos Ayres. 1857

Commissioned by Colt's Patent Firearms, Hartford, CT in 1857; Mrs. E.S. Cushman, Port Washington, NY; purchased by M. Knoedler & Co., Inc., New York in 1940; purchased from them by the Gallery in 1941

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Web Links See links to web pages and lesson plans
Seeing America Inservice Materials from a teacher in-service presentation Spring 2008
Seeing America Chapter on George Catlin's Shooting Flamingoes, written by Peter Ogden Brown.
Ambush for Flamingoes This companion painting is in the collection of the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, PA

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