Osceola - The Great Seminole Chief


Robert John Curtis ( American, 1816 - 1877 )

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General Description

Osceola was a warrior and leader during the Second Seminole War, in which he and other Native North Americans resisted relocation from their ancestral lands in Florida to territories west of the Mississippi River. In January 1838, he was imprisoned by the US Army and died of tuberculosis soon after. Osceola quickly became a folk hero and an example of the United States' misguided policy toward native peoples.

This portrait contains references to Osceola's blended heritage; his paternal grandfather was a Scotsman who married a Creek woman. The artist likely altered his sitter's features to communicate health, vigor, and European associations. The breastplates and beaded belt, contrasted with the cotton shawl and headwrap, underscore the conflicting public notions of Native North American leaders as both enemy combatants and noble heroes.

Excerpt from

Emily Schiller, DMA label text, 2017

Web Resources

  • Osceola, George Catlin
    Check out another portrait of Osceola at the website of artist George Catlin's complete works.