On March 18, 2023, Blackwell Auctions will offer a painting of one of the most historically important figures of the 19th century, Sitting Bull, the chief who united the Sioux to defeat Gen. George Armstrong Custer at Little Big Horn in 1876.
The portrait was one of four known to have been painted of Sitting Bull by Caroline Weldon (1844-1921), a New York artist who traveled to North Dakota in 1889 and became his confidante and personal secretary until 1890, when they had a falling out over his support of the Ghost Dance movement. A fictionalized account of their relationship and her interest in painting him was the subject of a 2017 movie, Woman Walks Ahead, with Jessica Chastain as Weldon. Of her four portraits, one is held at the North Dakota Historical Society in Bismarck, another at the Historic Arkansas Museum in Little Rock. Two were presumed to be lost, but this painting – an oil on canvas – was consigned to Blackwell Auctions of Clearwater, Fla., by the descendant of its original owner, a railroad construction engineer from Minnesota.
The cultural significance of this piece can hardly be overstated because the painting represents at once the poignant intersection of two marginalized groups: the indigenous peoples of America and women artists.
The American Sale, March 18, 2023. Lot 100. (Click image at right to enlarge.)