"If you have had those Indians there once, they will spend the greater part of their time with you while they are around this part of the country," some one said to Mrs. Käsebier immediately after the studio tea. "Well, let them come," she answered, stoutly, still remembering her early life on the plains. "I shall be glad to see them." "Sioux Chiefs' Party Calls," New York Times, April 24, 1898
Gertrude Käsebier, a notable pictorialist photographer, helped shape the field of photography as a fine art around the turn of the twentieth century. Widely published, her work received acclaim from art notables such as Alfred Stieglitz and Auguste Rodin. Her lesser known works are of Lakota (Sioux) "Show Indians" from Buffalo Bill's Wild West when they came through New York City in April 1898. The nine men included in the initial studio visit were Chief Iron Tail, High Heron, Has-No-Horses, Samuel Lone Bear, Joseph Black Fox, Red Horn Bull, Shooting Pieces, Phillip Standing Soldier, and Kills-Close-to-the-Lodge.
Käsebier's photographs of the "Show Indians" led to the creation of what is arguably the most respected set of images produced during her career. The portraits were selectively, and infrequently, exhibited and reproduced in contemporary journals. While Käsebier received some of the highest prices in the nation for photographic work, she often gave away the Sioux portraits to those individuals expressing a genuine interest in and appreciation for Native American culture.
It is not clear from interviews or family records exactly how many prints were produced from negatives made between 1898 and 1912. The largest and most comprehensive selection of these photographs, more than 100, along with the 14 drawings made when the Sioux visited the studio, was deposited by donation from Käsebier's grand-daughter, Mina Turner, to the Smithsonian Institution in 1969. Today, the collection remains a highlight of the National Museum of American History's Photographic History Collection and hold a distinctive place in the visual record of Buffalo Bill's Wild West.
Gertrude Käsebier's collection of Native American portraits is a poignant testimony to her independent spirit and her modern awareness of the possibilities of fine art photography. Using the navigation bar above, explore Käsebier's biography through both text and interactive timeline, curated thematic divisions between the photographs and documents, historiographic elements including an article database, and a searchable gallery of Käsebier's photographs and associated documents.