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Winter, George Frances Slocum, 1839


George Winter, the youngest of 12 children, was born in England. His family was well educated, and their home had a gallery where he often listened to people talk about art. The town itself contained many collections of celebrated paintings. Having decided to become an artist, Winter spent four years in London. He arrived in New York City in 1830 and studied at the National Academy of Design. He went to Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1836 and to Logansport, Indiana, in May 1837, where he spent the next 14 years. He became a U.S. citizen in 1841.

Apparently he was drawn to Logansport by a desire to record the appearance of the Potawatomi and Miami Indians who were being removed beyond the Mississippi River following their relinquishment of their native lands to the U.S. government. Winter had never seen an American Indian before his arrival at Logansport, and his journal records his reaction: “The Indian as I found him was not the one I had seen through the imagination or fancy; he was clothed in varied colored draperies, each in accordance with his own peculiar conceit. Instead of the shaved head and scalp lock towering from the center of the cranium, his head was wrapped around with a shawl of many colors, turban fashion, a la Turk, presenting a picturesque appearance.” Winter’s paintings are an extremely valuable historical record of the customs of these Indiana Indian tribes.

Winter also painted portraits of local settlers and landscapes from sketches he made along the Wabash River, often with groups of American Indians painted into them. In his book Pioneer Painters, the art historian Wilbur Peat says of Winter’s landscapes, “Tinged with an air of romanticism in both composition and color, and planned to bring out the most picturesque aspects of the region, they became very popular, finding their way into many local [Lafayette] homes.”

In 1850 Winter opened a studio in Lafayette and painted commissioned portraits. In 1852 he started his “Distributions”: he would hold a public showing of a group of paintings, sell chances for one or two dollars, and then hold a drawing to determine the winners of the paintings. In 1874 he went to California and made numerous sketches. He died only a week after he returned to Lafayette in 1876.

  • Frances Slocum, 1839
  • 20 3/4″ x 16 1/2″
  • Tippecanoe County Historical Association
  • Keywords: paintings, portraits, oil on canvas
  • Subjects: people, women, earrings, American Indians

At age 5, Frances Slocum (1773–1847) was kidnapped by Delaware Indians from her home in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. She was discovered in 1837 when she confided her story to Colonel George Washington Ewing. Ewing sent an account of her story east, and Slocum’s brothers and sister came to Deaf Man’s Village to see her in 1837. She refused to leave her home and family. This “Lost Sister” was called Ma-con-a-qua, and she had married twice—first a Delaware warrior and then a Miami chief, the Deaf Man. The story is told in Martha Bennett Phelps’s book Frances Slocum, the Lost Sister of Wyoming.

Winter painted his portrait of Frances Slocum on his return trip in 1839, at the request of her brother. The trip is recorded in Winter’s account Journal of A Visit to Deaf Man’s Village, 1839. According to this journal, Slocum’s daughter placed the black silk shawl over her mother’s shoulders, and pinned it in front. Winter’s description as she posed includes the following: “Frances Slocum’s face bore the marks of deep-seated lines. The muscles of her cheeks were like corded rises, and her forehead ran in almost right angular lines. There was indication of no unwanted cares upon her countenance beyond time’s influence which peculiarly marks the decline of life. She bore the impress of old age, without its extreme feebleness. Her hair which was evidently of dark brown color was now frosted. Though bearing some resemblance to her family, yet her cheek bones seemed to bear the Indian characteristic in that particular-face broad, nose somewhat bulby, mouth perhaps indicating some degree of severity. In her ears she wore some few ‘ear bobs.’”

Some Points To Consider

  • Have students list the properties of this painting that make Frances seem to be an American Indian woman. (Art 4.3.1, 4.3.2)
  • Ask students how this portrait compares to portraits of typical early Indiana women. (Art 4.1.1)