Saturday, March 11, 2017

Karl Bodmer (1809-1893) Encounters 19C Native American Traditions

Karl Bodmer (Swiss Artist, 1809-1893) Watercolor of an Assinboin Indian magic pile 
From Europe to the Atlantic coast of America to the Pacific coast of America during the 17C-19C, settlers moved West encountering a variety of Indigenous Peoples on their journeys. Karl Bodmer (Swiss Artist, 1809-1893) developed a remarkable talent for drawing & painting while studying with his uncle, painter & engraver Johann Jacob Meyer. After further studies in Paris, he joined his brother on a sketching trip through Germany in 1832 where he met Prince Maximilian zu Weid. Maximilian, known for his natural history research in the coastal forests of Brazil, was searching for a professional artist to accompany him on his expedition to North America. Bodmer signed a contract with Maximilian &, 3 weeks later, they set sail for America.

From 1833-1834, the two traveled up the Missouri River, retracing the 1805 journey of Lewis & Clark. On the expedition, Bodmer depicted some of the same characters that George Caitlin had painted just months before. Bodmer was the last artist able to paint the Mandan Indians in North Dakota before the fatal 1837 smallpox epidemic that nearly obliterated the tribe. He also painted portraits of the Sioux, Blackfeet, Hidatsa, & other tribes, while Maximilian conducted studies & made notes on the botany & zoology of the areas. Before the end of the journey, Bodmer had completed 81 paintings, illustrating Maximilians expedition. Each elegant painting displayed extremely detailed & accurate accounts of Indian ceremonies & everyday life. In 1843, Maximilian's lithographs were published in Travels in the Interior of America.