This painting is donated by International Swimming Hall of Fame to National Swimming Pool Foundation for a silent auction to be held this October at the World Aquatic Health Conference.
The opening bid is $250.00.
Here's info about the pairing, done in 1833
The most detailed descriptions of the swimming skills and styles of Native American swimmers, which were no doubt universally known, comes to us from the art and writings of George Catlin, a lawyer turned artist took five trips into Indian territory between 1830 and 1836, visiting fifty tribes. Catlin observed that swimming was a daily ritual for the Indians from their earliest days as young children and that they used a version of the modern Crawl Stroke. In his journal, Catlin tells the interesting story of this painting.
In the painting you can see three men sitting in a “Bull Boat,” a floating tub made from a buffalo’s skin stretched over a frame of willow boughs, and a woman standing up in the water. It was Catlin and his two friends who wanted to cross the river.
When we were in, and seated flat on its bottom, with scarce room in any way to adjust our legs and our feet (as we sat necessarily facing each other), she stepped before the boat, and pulling it along, waded towards the deeper water, with her back towards us, carefully with the other hand attending to her dress, which seemed to be but a light slip, and floating upon the surface until the water was above her waist, when it was instantly turned off, over her head and thrown ashore; and she boldly plunged forward, swimming and drawing the boat with one hand, which she did with apparent ease. In this manner we were conveyed to the middle of the stream, where we were soon surrounded by a dozen or more beautiful girls, from twelve to fifteen and eighteen years of age, who were at that time bathing on the opposite shore.
They all swam in a bold and graceful manner, and as confidently as so many otters or beavers; and gathering around us, with their long black hair floating about on the water, whilst their faces were glowing with jokes and fun, which they were cracking about us, and which we could not understand.
In the midst of this delightful little aquatic group, we three sat in our little skin-bound tub (like the “three wise men of Gotham, who went to sea in a bowl,” &c.), floating along down the current, losing sight, and all thoughts, of the shore, which was equidistant from us on either side; whilst we were amusing ourselves with the playfulness of these dear little creatures who were floating about under the clear blue water, catching their hands on to the sides of our boat; occasionally raising one-half of their bodies out of the water, and sinking again, like so many mermaids.
In the midst of this bewildering and tantalizing entertainment, in which poor Ba’tiste and Bogand, as well as myself, were all taking infinite pleasure, and which we supposed was all intended for our especial amusement; we found ourselves suddenly in the delightful dilemma of floating down the current in the middle of the river; and being turned round and round to the excessive amusement of the villagers, who were laughing at us from the shore, as well as these little tyros, whose delicate hands were besetting our tub on all sides.
It was only then that Catlin and his friends realized they would have give up their valuable trinkets if they wanted to reach the other side. “I had some awls in my pockets, which I presented to them, and also a few strings of beautiful beads, which I placed over their delicate necks as they raised them out of the water by the side of our boat; after which they all joined in conducting our craft to the shore, by swimming by the sides of, and behind it, pushing it along in the direction where they designed to land it.”
There was a tragic and melancholy postscript to the story, for in the summer of 1838, this tribe of swimmers was wiped out by a small-pox epidemic. It was communicated to them from some