Robert Montgomery Bird: Writer and Artist
Dr. Bird's 1830 painting of "Alabama Creek Boys"
should be compared to J. O. Lewis's portrait of Brewett, a Miami
chief. It is easy to distinguish between Lewis's "anthropological"
approach to depiction of Native American peoples and Bird's more
humanistic approach to their portrayal. In some of his prose romances,
such as Nick of the Woods, Bird portrays "murderous Injuns"
in a fashion that distresses modern readers; it was not entirely pleasing
even to his contemporaries. But his artistic portrayals of Native peoples
show a different attitude. His working sketches (seven of them shown
here) are portrait busts in something of the style of Lewis and of the
other portraitists of Native Americans who contemporaneously worked in the
same tradition. When, however, he completes paintings of his Native
American subjects (three of them are shown here), he quite clearly removes
them from the arena of anthropological specimens in which his sketches,
like Lewis's portraits, seem to leave them. Instead he returns them, as
actors, to the world in which they and he both live.
Please note: all images are courtesy of Mr. and Mrs. Robert
Seven Watercolor Portraits of Native
"Winnebago Chief and Orator"
Winnebago Chief. Philad"
(Loud Thunder) Son of Black Hawk, 27
. . . Detroit, July, 1833."
Two Watercolors of Native Americans in Natural
undated, untitled, and unsigned
Watercolor of a Native American in elaborate costume,
with an animal skin hanging from his back
Untitled, undated, and unsigned
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Last update: Wednesday, 11-Jul-2012 13:19:54 EDT
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