George Catlin (July 26, 1796 – December 23, 1872) was an American painter, author and traveler who specialized in portraits of Native Americans in the Old West.
Catlin was born in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. His early work included engravings drawn from nature of sites along the route of the Erie Canal in New York State. Several of his renderings were published in one of the first printed books to use lithography, Cadwallader D. Colden's Memoir, Prepared at the Request of a Committee of the Common Council of the City of New York, and Presented to the Mayor of the City, at the Celebration of the Completion of the New York Canals, published in 1825, with early images of the City of Buffalo.
As a child growing up in Pennsylvania, Catlin had spent many hours hunting, fishing, and looking for American Indian artifacts. His fascination with Native Americans was kindled by his mother, who told him stories of the Western Frontier and how she was captured by a tribe when she was a young girl. Years later, a group of Native Americans came through Philadelphia dressed in their colorful costumes and made quite an impression on Catlin. Following a brief career as a lawyer, he produced two major collections of paintings of American Indians and published a series of books chronicling his travels among the native peoples of North, Central and South America. Claiming his interest in America’s 'vanishing race' was sparked by a visiting American Indian delegation in Philadelphia, he set out to record the appearance and customs of America’s native people.