Critic's Pick: A Cree Artist Redraws History at Metropolitan Museum of Art

By Holland Cotter
A detail from Kent Monkman’s “Resurgence of the People” updates Delacroix’s pessimistic image by depicting a healthy baby in the arms of a same-sex Indigenous couple.
NEW YORK---Coonskin caps for Christmas! I was a kid in mid-20th-century America. The biggest cultural event I can remember from early childhood was Walt Disney’s gigantically popular “Davy Crockett: Indian Fighter” on TV. All this came back to mind when I saw “The Great Hall Commission: Kent Monkman, mistikosiwak (Wooden Boat People)” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The paintings are pretty stupendous. “I want to make the contemporary feel historic and the historic feel contemporary,” Mr. Monkman said in a 2017 interview for the Toronto Globe and Mail. That’s an excellent goal for the Met to shoot for too. [More]
Eugène Delacroix’s "The Natchez" in 1823, where he narrates the fate of the Natchez people following attacks by French forces in the 1730s. Collection: Metropolitan Museum of Art
Mr. Monkman’s “Resurgence of the People,” from 2019, references art history from “Washington Crossing the Delaware” (1851). In “Resurgence of the People,” Miss Chief Eagle Testickle pilots a boat with Indigenous people at the oars. Collection: Metropolitan Museum of Art
Emanuel Leutze’s “Washington Crossing the Delaware,” from 1851, is one of many art references Mr. Monkman updates.
Kent Monkman’s painting “Welcoming the Newcomers” in the Great Hall of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Credit Aaron Wynia for The New York Times