Booth Exhibit a Glance at Lost Culture
Set to open Thursday, 'The Indian Gallery of Henry Inman,' features an intimate look at many of the last leaders of southeastern Indian tribes.
While Booth Western Art Museum’s core collection focuses on the west and its people, visitors often inquire about images of the Native Americans who lived in the southeast.
To address this desire, the Booth is set to open Thursday an exhibit, organized by High Museum of Art in Atlanta with the support of Ann and Tom Cousins, titled The Indian Gallery of Henry Inman. Scheduled to be on view through Oct. 7, the exhibition will feature more than a dozen portraits of Southeast Indian Chiefs from the early 1800s, as well as works by artisans of the time.
“With few remnants of the previous tenants who called the southeast region ‘home,’ it is easy to forget that by the early 1800’s the Cherokee, Creek and Seminole Indians had largely become hybrid peoples, with degrees of assimilation or resistance to European-American customs while preserving their ancient traditions,” Booth Director of Curatorial Services Jeffrey Donaldson said in a press release. “As we might discover a treasury left by previous inhabitants in our attic, The Indian Gallery of Henry Inman is a time capsule of legendary people who, despite their relocation on the Western frontier, provide an important link between the American South and West.”
Portrait artist Henry Inman was hired in the 1830’s by Thomas McKenney, former head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, to copy a series of earlier portraits by Charles Bird King. The original portraits by King were done from life, when visiting Indian dignitaries would sit for him. Inman’s portraits, which captured the likeness of the Indian delegates, including the cultural influences of the time, were used for a book McKenney and James Hall published, the History of the Indian Tribes of North America. In time, Inman’s copies would become more important as a fire at the Smithsonian Institute in 1865 destroyed nearly all of Kings’ original portraits along with a collection of Indian artifacts McKenney had assembled for display.
In the Booth exhibit, visitors will gain insight into the lives of the last leaders of the Five “Civilized” Tribes, particularly the Cherokee, Creek and Seminole Nations who inhabited the southeast through paintings and lithographic counterparts published by McKenney and Hall.
Also on display will be period maps of the southeast, and original accessories made by southeastern tribal artisans including embroidered bandolier bags and silver gorgets similar to those worn by the Indian leaders featured in the paintings and lithographs.
In addition to their cultural value as fine art and artifacts, the Cousins collection, particularly the portraits, provide an unparalleled first-hand encounter with the personalities they represent, relaying both gloom and optimism for their diplomatic missions in turbulent times. As a parallel to the portraits, the accompanying artifacts serve not only as objects of beauty or historical documentation, but capture the handiwork and expression of their unknown makers.
For more information on The Indian Gallery of Henry Inman, call 770-387-1300 or visit www.boothmuseum.org.