"A portrait is a picture in which there is just a tiny little something not quite right about the mouth." -- John Singer Sargent

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Chief Joseph

This 1878 painting of Chief Joseph by Cyrenius Hall hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC.
"Chief Joseph came to embody for many the tragic plight of Native Americans during the second half of the nineteenth century ... His resistance to government efforts to move the Nez Perce people to a reservation drew anger from U.S. authorities, but also prompted widespread sympathy from many Americans. When troops were called in to speed the removal process in 1877, Joseph and 800 of his followers began a strategic retreat, seeking safety first among allied tribes in Montana and then heading toward Canada. Only thirty miles from the border, a command led by General Nelson Miles intercepted this band and forced Joseph to surrender. For the next eight years Joseph was imprisoned at several sites, including Fort Leavenworth in Kansas. It was there that artist Cyrenius Hall created this painting of the dispirited leader." -- National Portrait Gallery
Because this painting was one of the first paintings acquired by the National Portrait Gallery, the Postal Service used it on a 6¢ postage stamp honoring the opening of the Gallery.

“In celebration of the National Portrait Gallery's opening, the United States Postal Service issued a 6-cent stamp on November 4, 1968, in a special ceremony held at the new museum. The stamp bears the image of Chief Joseph (1840-1904), the great Native American resistance leader of the Nez Perce Indians. The original portrait, which was painted from life by Cyrenius Hall in 1878, was one of the first works the National Portrait Gallery acquired.” – National Portrait Gallery

 Descendants of Chief Joseph gathered round his portrait at the stamp ceremony, November 4, 1968

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