In order to minimise the spread of the coronavirus all museums of the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden remain closed until 20 April 2020.
Tecumseh, Keokuk, Black Hawk. Portrayals of Native Americans in Times of Treaties and Removal
The Exhibition is under the patronage of Matthias Rößler, President of the Saxon Landtag.
The focal point of the exhibition is sculptures by the Dresden artist Ferdinand Pettrich (1798-1872), which he considered as a whole to be the “Indian Museum”. As one of the first European sculptors, he created portraits of North American Indian chiefs for the collection, among them are Tecumseh, Keokuk and Black Hawk.
Pettrich studied with his father, Franz Pettrich, at the Dresden Art Academy as well as with Bertel Thorvaldsen in Rome. In 1835, he went to Washington in the US for eight years. There, treaties between the native tribes and the US government concerning the future land-use were negotiated. While the young American nation was aiming at territorial expansion, native tribes fought for their physical and cultural survival. In this setting, the artist created his portraits: four low reliefs, four life-size statues, 16 busts and nine bozzetti from plaster painted in a terracotta tone. After his return to Europe in 1858, he presented this important workgroup as a gift to pope Pius IX.
Today, the art works are in the possession of the Museo Missionario-Etnologico in the Vatican. Only for this exhibition in Dresden, the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden and the Musei Vaticani agreed on an exhibition cooperation to present the works of Pettrich outside of Rome for the first time. The exhibition wants to present the unique sculptures comprehensively, to introduce the contemporary perception of Native Americans and to refer to their today’s positions: Here, Pettrich’s sculptures of Indian chiefs will be presented alongside classical sculptures of his contemporaries. At the same time, paintings of the so-called “Indian painters” Charles Bird King (1785-1862), George Catlin (1796-1872) and Karl Bodmer (1809-1893) will be exhibited who have had a permanent effect on the European view of the indigenous people of North America then as now.
Ethnographical objects from the everyday life of the Native Americans shed light on the esthetics and cultures with which Pettrich was confronted while staying in the US. Based on historic documents as well as on examples from literature and film, the life stories and the historic context of the depicted persons will be told. Furthermore, the show presents contemporary indigenous positions of artists who explore the current relations between Indians and Caucasians critically.