Object Record

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Catalog Number X1909.01.01
Title YORK
Object Name Painting
Artist Russell, Charles M. (1864-1926)
Dimensions H-19 W-25.5 inches
Medium Watercolor/Paper
Date 1908
Notes Here Russell captures an extraordinary moment when York-Capt. William Clark's slave and member of the Corps of Discovery-is met by Hidatsa Indians on the Missouri River on March 9, 1805. Many western Indian tribes had never seen an African American person before. York's dark skin color led some Indians to believe that he might have special powers. Others, such as Hidatsa chief Le Borgne, shown here, believed that he was only painted black and tried to rub the color off his skin.

In creating this piece, Russell employs artistic license by placing the events inside a Hidatsa lodge in the village of Menetarra, when the meeting actually took place at Fort Mandan. Clearly influenced by works of earlier artists Bodmer and Catlin, here Russell positions York and Le Borgne in the center of the lodge, with Lewis, Clark, Sacajawea, and Charbonneau in the background near the edge of the painting. It is an excellent example of Russell's opaque watercolor technique. He manipulates the painting in built-up layers, adding to the depth and vibrancy of the piece
Search Terms Lewis and Clark
Native American
American Indian