DuChien Prairie Painting

In 1835, George Catlin journeyed up the Mississippi River to Fort Snelling, a military post in Minnesota. Catlin departed Fort Snelling with a guide and canoed down the upper Mississippi, sketching scenes along the way. This idyllic work, Madame Ferrebault’s Prairie, conveys his blissful, romantic notions of expansive, untouched frontier. Amid this natural beauty and abundance, Catlin predicted that “cities, towers, and villas” would cover the riverbanks. Whether he realized it or not, artworks such as his catered to fantasies of the West that fueled frontier settlement.

Credit: Detail from Madame Ferrebault's Prairie, above Prairie du Chien by George Catlin, 1835-1836. Smithsonian American Art Museum; gift of Mrs. Joseph Harrison, Jr.