After a brief career as a lawyer, George Catlin decided to pursue his lifelong interest in painting and set up a portrait studio in Philadelphia in the 1820s. After painting the portrait of the explorer William Clark, coleader of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, Catlin accompanied Clark (who now served as Superintendent for Indian Affairs) on a trip west to negotiate treaties with several of the Indian nations. Catlin became fascinated with the Indians and their way of life, which he realized would soon be forever changed as a result of Western expansion. In 1832 he embarked on an eight-year-long painting expedition that took him through much of the Indian territories in North America. Catlin visited approximately 146 Indian tribes during his journeys and painted and sketched thousands of portraits and other scenes of Indian life. Upon his return east, Catlin had hoped to sell his collection of paintings to the nation, but when that proposal was defeated in the U.S. Senate, he left for Europe, where he spent the next thirty years with his family. He returned to the United States shortly before his death in 1872.
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