Envelope for Indian Portraits

Like many western railroads, the Great Northern commissioned works by a number of artists. But the one that proved to be most popular with the public was Winold Reiss, a German portrait painter who came to America to paint a variety of ethnic groups. Although his Indian paintings are especially famous, unlike some painters he only painted Indians of one group: the Blackfeet who lived around Glacier National Park.

Click image to download a 1.2-MB PDF of this envelope.

Louis Hill bought dozens of Reiss’ paintings and, in 1928, GN started putting the paintings on its calendars. In 1931, GN published a portfolio of a dozen paintings, most of which were by Reiss but a few of which were by Langdon Kihn, a painter who had studied under Reiss.

The Reiss paintings apparently proved most popular. In 1935, to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the creation of Glacier National Park, GN published a beautiful book containing 49 of Reiss’ paintings. The book also had an essay about Blackfeet Indians by Frank Linderman, a writer who had lived with or near the Indians for many years.

Copies of these books are rare today, and I hesitate to scan one of mine as it is still in copyright. Fortunately for Reiss fans, the book was reprinted in 1995.

Perhaps to reduce the cost or perhaps because people wanted copies of the paintings suitable for framing, GN next issued a portfolio of 24 Reiss paintings, all of which were also in the 1935 book. The portfolio also included a reprint of Linderman’s essay on the Blackfeet. It is hard to tell exactly when the portfolio was issued, as the above envelope (which was designed by GN artists, not Reiss) is dated 1940 but the Linderman essay is dated 1947. The envelope is marked “One Dollar Fifty Cents,” which–if in 1947–is about $15 today. I’ll post the essay and prints over the next two days.

In 1958, GN issued another portfolio of 24 Winold Reiss paintings. Eleven of these had been in the 1935 book while 13 were new, most of which Reiss had painted after 1935. Though more recent, this portfolio is not as easily found as the 1940/47 version, but I have a copy that I’ll post soon.

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