Inducted in 2014
Seth Eastman was one of the foremost painters of North America and the Mississippi River. A graduate of West Point in 1829, he was posted to Ft. Crawford, Wisconsin and Ft. Snelling, Minnesota from 1829-1831, and he began sketching Indian life as the basis for an Indian portrait gallery. Because of his training as a topographic artist, Eastman painted what he saw rather than attempting to compose his picture. During the time he was stationed at Fort Snelling, he was married to Stands-Like-a-Spirit, the daughter of Cloud Man, the leader of the Dakota settlement on the shore of Lake Calhoun in what is now Minneapolis.
Eastman returned to West Point in 1833 to teach drawing classes. He then served in the Seminole War (1840) and eventually transferred back to Ft. Snelling where he continued to sketch, painting over 400 river and Indian scenes in 7 years.
Eastman’s pencil sketches and watercolors introduced Native American tribes along the rivers in the west to an eager audience. Several of the works depict the Falls of St. Anthony and Fort Snelling. Prominent artists, including Henry Lewis, creator of the Mississippi River Panorama, used Eastman’s drawings as the basis for their own works. In 1851, Henry Schoolcraft selected Eastman as the artist for his six-volume Indian Tribes of the U.S.
Having retired as a Brigadier General for disability during the American Civil War, Eastman was reactivated when commissioned to make paintings for Congress. Between 1867 and 1869, he painted a series of nine scenes of American Indian life for the House Committee on Indian Affairs. In 1870 he was commissioned by Congress to create a series of 17 paintings of important U.S. fortifications, to be hung in the meeting rooms of the House Committee on Military Affairs which he completed in 1875.
Through Seth Eastman’s explicitly realistic depictions, in both pen and oil, he left a lasting legacy of the frontier, American Indian life, and life on the river.