Gallery Artists > Seth Eastman Biography :

Seth Eastman  Artworks >>

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 1933-40, 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

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