The Blanket Man by Kathryn Leighton


Kathryn Leighton (American, 1876-1952)

Born in Plainfield, New Hampshire, Kathryn Leighton became a celebrated Indian portrait and landscape painter. In 1918, she had begun painting American Indian portraits, many of them signed by the sitter, and this endeavor brought her international recognition. In 1926 in Montana, Russell introduced her to the Blackfeet Indians and to officials of the Northern Pacific Railway. These contacts paved the way for success with a project of doing portraits of Blackfeet elders for The Great Northern Railway, whose personnel wanted them for an exhibition with lecture series about the disintegration of Indian cultural traditions. The goal of railroad officials was to preserve a record of a vanishing way of life.

To initiate the portrait project with Leighton, officials brought her and her family to Glacier National Park for three months as their guests. Then railroad personnel brought in the chiefs of the Blackfeet tribes, and paid them to serve as her models. At the end of that summer, the project seemed such a success that the railroad reportedly bought 20 of the portraits for high prices, and then sent the paintings on a cross-country tour with a lecturer explaining the Blackfeet culture. Needless to say, this project was a 'shot in the arm' for Leighton's professional career, and she became known as the expert portraitist of Native Americans. The Blackfeet adopted her into their tribe and gave her the name "Anna -Tar-Kee", which in English translated to 'beautiful woman in spirit". 

Oil on Canvas

44 x 36 in.