PETER RINDISBACHER, Swiss (1806-1834)
Considered an important pioneer artist of Canada and the American West, Peter Rindisbacher was born in Switzerland, where he received cursory training in painting from Jacob Weibel, a Swiss miniaturist. He came to North America in 1821, where he spent fifteen years producing first hand illustrations of native life in Western Canada and the United States.
He arrived in Canada as a young man with his family as part of the Selkirk Red River Settlement in association with the Hudson Bay Company. The emigrants were ill-prepared for the difficulties that awaited them. Young Rindisbacher sketched ships, icebergs and polar bears, and once settled the native populations. His work was some of the earliest recordings of this remote terrain and its people.
Portrait of Peter Rindisbacher, oil, by George Markham, 1830. Missouri History Museum
The Rindisbacher family stayed in Canada for five years, battling, prairie fires, floods and crop diseases as they attempted to farm the land, while Peter supplemented the family income by working as a clerk at a Hudson Bay Company store and by selling paintings. From 1823, James Hargrave, a company clerk, received orders for him from traders and officials who responded to his lively images of life in the northwest. Peter's repertoire grew, but the family farm continued to fail. The family eventually packed up and left for Wisconsin, where they worked in the mines and the smelter.
Rindisbacher moved to St. Louis and opened a studio there painting landscapes and images of Indian life on canvas, and drawing illustrations for magazine and book covers. During his career, engravings of his works were also published several times in the The Turf Register and Sporting Magazine. After his death in 1834 at the age of 28, his paintings Hunting the Buffaloe and War Dance of the Sauks and Foxes were used as frontispieces for Thomas McKenney's History of the Indian Tribes of North America.
Rindisbacher is known to have produced over 124 paintings. His work has a naive charm, depicting native peoples as children of nature. Forty of his works are currently held by the Library and Archives of Canada, Ottawa, with others located in the collections of the West Point Museum of the United States Military Academy and the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Rindisbacher died at the young age of 28.