19 x 26 1/2 in. (48.3 x 67.3 cm)
(Wilkes-Barre, PA, 1796 - 1872, Jersey City, NJ)
Medium and Support:
Oil on canvas
R. T. Miller Fund, 1941, transferred to Marion Stratton Gould Fund, 1949
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]