Review: American Indian Portraits, National Portrait Gallery

This small, free exhibition is fascinating. The portraits by George Catlin are not always very good technically: the ornaments, headdresses and facial decorations are often painted better than the people wearing them. Their importance lies in looking at his attempts in the 1830s onwards to chronicle people who he rightly believed were being wiped out. Seeing this fraction of his work documenting so many destroyed cultures is highly thought-provoking. The exhibition continues until 23 June so there’s plenty of time to see it.

Tucked in the shadow of its big sister, the National Portrait Gallery is easy to overlook but there is some terrific stuff there, not just conventional portraits but important modern work such as Sam Taylor-Wood’s video portrait of David Beckham and Marc Quinn’s cast of his own head made with his own blood.


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