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Osceola, the Black Drink, a Warrior of Great Distinction
George Catlin, oil painting, 1838
Smithsonian American Art Museum

George Catlin painted Osceola in the final month of the warrior's life, following his infamous capture in October of 1837. Among the most memorable portraits in Catlin's large body of work, the painting vividly captures the chief's pride amid a terrible change of circumstances.

As soon as he heard of Osceola'a capture, Catlin closed his New York studio and headed south. At Fort Moultrie, he found several competitors engaged in the process of painting and drawing Osceola. The chief suffered the artists graciously, often sitting for two at once. Of the group, he particularly liked Catlin, who had traveled widely in American Indian territories. The two stayed up talking late into the night.

Of the many images of Osceola, Catlin's is the most famous and justifiably so. The painter's craftsmanship and respect for his subject shine through in many accurate personal details and in the chief's nobility and calm grace.

(1 of 9 images in this series)