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 Seth Eastman  (1808 - 1875)

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Lived/Active: District Of Columbia/Maine      Known for: genre-Indian, topography, portrait

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Seth Eastman
from Auction House Records.
Indian Mode of Traveling
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Brunswick, Maine, Seth Eastman, who became Brigadier General Seth Eastman, was a mid-19th century painter, topographer and draftsman, whose name remains famous for his depictions of United States military posts, western landscapes, and Indian life.  Seventeen of his paintings of historic forts are in the collection of the United States Capitol, and include Fort Defiance, Arizona; Fort Rice in North Dakota, Fort Knox in Maine, Fort Snelling in Minnesota and Fort Sumter in South Carolina.  He also had a military career as military governor of Cincinnati and post commander in New York, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania.

He graduated in 1929 from West Point Military Academy and that same year, with the First Infantry was assigned to the upper Mississippi at Fort Snelling in Minnesota.  He returned to West Point and studied for seven years with Robert Weir, art instructor.

In 1837, he published a book on topographic drawing and exhibited his paintings at the National Academy of Design in New York.  He was then assigned to frontier posts, including Fort Snelling from 1841 to 1848, and during this time, he created over four-hundred paintings of frontier Indians.  His skill led to his transfer to Washington D.C. in 1850 to do more than three-hundred illustration plates for Henry Rowe Schoolcraft's congressionally authorized work on the North American Indians.

Eastman's wife, Mary Henderson Eastman, collected Indian legends and information on their customs, which she published in the 1840s and 1850s.  She and her husband shared the conviction that Indians should be converted to Christianity.

Sources include:
Michael David Zellman, 300 Years of American Art
Art in the United States Capitol, commissioned by 91st Congress
http://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/art/common/slideshow/fortpaintings.jsp

Biography from Altermann Galleries and Auctioneers, II:
Seth Eastman
Born: Brunswick, Maine 1808
Died: Washington, DC 1875

Indian painter, illustrator, Army officer

Eastman was graduated from West Point in 1829 after having studied drawing under Thomas Gimbrede. He was assigned to Fort Crawford on the Mississippi in what is now Wisconsin. In 1829, before Catlin arrived, Eastman began making pencil sketches as documentaries in this meeting place for the surrounding Indian tribes. Eastman was moved to Fort Snelling (now Minneapolis) in 1830. This was the principal military stronghold to keep peace. In 1831, Eastman was selected for a topographical reconnaissance, beginning a series of sketches of the frontier forts. He returned to West Point as assistant teacher of drawing 1833-40, studying privately with CR Leslie and Robert W. Weir and exhibiting at the National Academy of Design and the Apollo Gallery.

Eastman went back to Fort Snelling as a captain in 1841-48. He began seriously to sketch the Indian country, often working from daguerreotypes. After a march through Texas in 1849, he was ordered to Washington. His wife wrote and he illustrated a successful Indian chronicle “Dakotah” published in 1849. This book was the prototype of Longfellow’s poem “Hiawatha.” In 1851, he began his five-year task of illustrating the six volumes authorized by Congress to record all the Indian tribes of the US. His wife and he also wrote and illustrated “The Romance of Indian Life” in 1853 and “Chicora” in 1854. The Indian drawings were offered to any college that would give free tuition to Eastman’s children apparently with no taker. He was on duty in Texas in 1855 and in Utah in 1858. Eastman served in the Civil War, retiring as a general until he was commissioned by Congress in 1867 to paint Indian and fort scenes to hang in the Capitol.

Resource: SAMUELS’ Encyclopedia of ARTISTS of THE AMERICAN WEST,
Peggy and Harold Samuels, 1985, Castle Publishing

Biography from Kramer Gallery, Inc.:
A career officer in the United States Army, Eastman graduated from West Point, where he studied (and later taught) drawing. He was twice stationed at Fort Snelling in present-day Minnesota in the 1830s and 1840s. There he had intimate contact with Dakota (Sioux) and Ojibway (Chippewa) tribes, and made their lifeways and the upper Mississippi River landscape key subjects in his work.

Eastman also served in Florida and Texas with the army, and ended his active career as a brigadier general following his Civil War service. Based in Washington at the end of his career, Eastman made drawings and watercolors as the basis for more than 300 illustrations in Henry Rowe Schoolcraft’s multi-volume publications on the Indian tribes of North America. He also painted a series of oils depicting Indian life and army forts for the United States Capitol.

Eastman’s wife Mary was a writer who gathered Indian tales for her popular fiction, some of which was published with her husband’s illustrations. During his lifetime Seth Eastman was critically admired as a “talented amateur” in art; his personal involvement with Native American tribes was the basis for his lasting importance as a “pictorial historian of the Indian.”

Citations
Sarah E. Boehme et al.: SETH EASTMAN: A PORTFOLIO OF NORTH AMERICAN INDIANS (1995)
John F. McDermott: SETH EASTMAN, PICTORIAL HISTORIAN OF THE INDIAN (1961)
Rena Neumann Coen, PAINTING AND SCULPTURE IN MINNESOTA, 1820-1914 (1976)
Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe: HISTORICAL AND STATISTICAL INFORMATION RESPECTING THE HISTORY, CONDITIONS, AND PROSPECTS OF THE INDIAN TRIBES OF NORTH AMERICA (1851-57)


Biography from Thomas Nygard Gallery:
Seth Eastman, who spent more time among the Indians of the trans-Mississippi West than probably any other artist of his day, was one of the few to record the ordinary activities of nineteenth century Indian life. Born in New Brunswick, Maine in 1808, he was appointed to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1824 where he trained as a topographical draftsman. He was assigned to duty on the western frontier and, possibly influenced by the visits of artists such as George Catlin, produced some of his Indian studies in 1829.

In 1833, he was appointed assistant drawing instructor to Robert Weir at West Point. Five years later he exhibited at the National Academy of Design. Assigned to the frontier outpost at Fort Snelling in 1841, Eastman made many studies of frontier and Indian scenes. In 1849, he collaborated with his wife on several books about Indians. His wife, an accomplished writer, is said to have inspired Henry W. Longfellow’s "Hiawatha." Seth Eastman was the principal illustrator for Henry Rowe Schoolcraft's definitive study of the American Indian and, after serving in Texas during the Civil War, was commissioned by Congress to execute a number of scenes of Indian and frontier life for the Senate and House Chamber at the Capitol.

In addition to his work at the Capitol, Eastman's paintings hang in the Smithsonian Institution, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Minneapolis Institute of Art, the Gilcrease Museum, the Stark Museum and the Joslyn Museum of Art.

Biography from The Caldwell Gallery - I:
Seth Eastman, born in 1808, was both a painter and avid military man. He studied at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, graduating in 1829. He served as an Army officer for 4 years after graduating and again in 1855 in Texas. Eastman was also a worked in the office of the Quartermaster General in Washington D.C.

Eastman worked as an assistant teacher of drawing at West Point from 1833-40, where he published the “Treasie on Topographical Drawing”. In 1850, he gained recognition for producing 300 illustrations that were published in a six volume series about the life of the American Indian. His sketches were mostly of the Dakota and Chippewa Indians. Eastman was commissioned by Congress to paint a series of American Indian scenes and Western Forts for the Capitol Building. This work consumed the rest of his life.

Eastman died in 1875.

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Seth Eastman is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
Western Painters

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