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Parting Shot: Sitting Bull 

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When Sitting Bull drew Self-Portrait in Battle in 1874, two years before the Battle of Little Bighorn, he drew himself not only as he was, but also how he saw himself spiritually. Sitting Bull proclaimed he’d had a vision of US soldiers being defeated as they tried to overtake the sacred Sioux territory. Leading more than 3,000 Hunkpapa Lakota warriors in 1876, he routed Gen. George Custer and the US Army in the Battle of Little Bighorn. The United States would soon retaliate, and, eventually, force Sitting Bull and his tribe to surrender. But that was in the future. Here, he draws himself in his war bonnet, armed with a triple-bladed club and riding a horse streaked with war paint. He charges forward, firing his rifle and clasping an American flag. Why Sitting Bull, who felt betrayed by the US, depicts himself with the Stars and Stripes is one of the delicious mysteries of the drawing. Self-Portrait in Battle is part of “Myth and Reality: The Art of the Great Plains,” on view through December 30 at the Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown. The exhibit features selections from the museum’s 800-piece Eugene and Clare Thaw Collection of American Indian Art, which includes objects dating back 2,500 years. (877)-547-1450; www.fenimoreartmuseum.org.

 


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