As featured in the April 2006 issue of Smithsonian Magazine, the following is an excerpt from the website Headhunt Revisited which chronicles the expedition by Michele Westmorland and Karen Huntt retracing Caroline Mytinger's journey in the South Pacific. All paintings are part of the permanent collection of the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology. Online images by Westmorland and Hunt are copyright protected and cannot be reproduced without permission.
Caroline Mytinger was born in 1897 in Sacramento, California. She was a noted portrait artist of important and wealthy Americans during the first half of the 20th century. Her love of adventure and interest in native cultures led her to travel to Guatemala, Haiti, Panama, and eventually to the South Pacific. In 1926 she set out with a friend, Margaret Warner, on a four-year journey to paint portraits of the tribes people in the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea.
With little more than $600 and a tin of oil paints, Caroline and Margaret set out for the South Pacific. Few white women had gone before them, and the only white men were missionaries, plantation owners, or the occasional adventurer.
A woman ahead of her time, Caroline realized the enormous impact that colonization was having on indigenous peoples. Her goal was to record their traditions before they were forever changed by western cultural influence. Caroline authored two books detailing her adventures, Headhunting in the Solomon Islands, and New Guinea Headhunt, published in the 1940s.
Upon their return in 1930, Caroline's art was exhibited at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, under the guidance of anthropologist Margaret Mead. After touring several other venues, Caroline bequeathed 23 paintings and more than 40 sketches to the Phoebe Hearst Museum of Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley.