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.