A Timeless Tribute to “the Father of Western Art”

John Coleman, “The Greeter, Black Moccasin Meeting Lewis and Clark,” 1999, bronze. Photo by John Coleman.

George Catlin (American, 1796-1872) is considered by many to be the father of western art. However, the artist was laid to rest in an unmarked grave for almost a century, until 1961 when a very simple grave marker was added to his burial site.

When award-winning, contemporary western artist John Coleman learned in 2012 of the unremarkable nature of Catlin’s final resting place, he offered his 1999 bronze entitled The Greeter, Black Moccasin Meeting Lewis and Clark as a gift so that it could stand near Catlin’s gravesite in perpetuity.

Throughout his life, George Catlin produced hundreds of artworks that documented Native American peoples and cultures. His artworks were displayed in both American and European galleries.

Coleman’s sculpture, The Greeter, is based on an account by Catlin of the time he spent with Black Moccasin, who was the chief of the Hidatsa. Catlin believed the chief to be more than 100 years old at that time. Black Moccasin shared with Catlin many of his recollections of Lewis and Clark. He was the first of his tribe to meet the explorers some 30 years prior. Coleman’s sculpture is his interpretation of what Black Moccasin may have looked like at that time: a man in his seventies standing on the bank of the Missouri River, holding his ceremonial pipe and making a welcoming gesture with his eagle fan.

The first edition of The Greeter can be seen in the museum’s exhibition Of Spirit and Flame: John Coleman Bronzes from the Collection of Frankie and Howard Alper. The exhibition also features six bronze sculptures of Native American subjects inspired by Catlin’s paintings.

John Coleman is an award-winning member of the Cowboy Artists of America, a Fellow Member of the National Sculpture Society and a Signature Member of the California Art Club.

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