Karl Bodmer

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Portrait of Bodmer and MaximilianKARL BODMER  Swiss (1809-1893)

Swiss-born Karl Bodmer (1809 - 1893) produced one of the most important and beautiful 19th century records of the American West. Bodmer was born on February 6, 1809 in Zurich. At age 13, he began studying under his uncle, artist Johann Jakob Meier,  Known for uncanny accuracy and detail, he uniquely captured the Native American culture through his portraits and depictions of  genre scenes and ceremonies. An equally talented landscape artist, he also recorded North America's vast western territories in their untouched, pristine beauty. Bodmer was just  23 years old when he signed on to accompany  German explorer, ethnologist and naturalist Prince Maximilian zu Wied-Neuwied on his Missouri River Expedition. His first hand watercolor sketches were completed during the expedition up the Missouri River between 1832 and 1834.  The findings resulted in the  publication of the Prince's journals titled Travels in the Interior of North America, during the years 1832 - 1834, which incorporated a picture atlas of 81 stunning naturalistic aquatint plates based on Bodmer's illustrations.  The aquatints, some with lovely original hand color remain an important American traveloge and snapshot of upper Plains Indian culture before it had been ravaged by small pox. At the conclusion of the expedition, Bodmer returned to Germany with Prince Maximilian and oversaw the production of the engravings that illustrated the travel atlas. 

Most of Bodmer's original watercolors are held by the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha, Nebraska.