Karl Bodmer

11 Feb 1809 –  30 Oct 1893

An artist famed for his detailed illustrations of the 19th century American West

The printmaker, etcher and illustrator Karl Bodmer is probably best known for his highly accurate works of the American West, its landscapes and inhabitants, in the 19th century.

In early adulthood, Bodmer left Switzerland to begin working as a painter and engraver in Germany. It was here that he was spotted by the German aristocrat and explorer Prince Maximilian of Wied-Neuwied.

Maximilian was planning an expedition across the American West and asked Bodmer to join him as the expedition’s official artist.

Born in Switzerland, Bodmer’s introduction to artistic exploration can be attributed to his uncle Johann Jakob Meier – a prominent engraver. At the age of 13, Meier began teaching Bodmer, taking him on artistic expeditions through Switzerland.

Prince Maximilian of Wied-Neuwied

In early adulthood, Bodmer left Switzerland to begin working as a painter and engraver in Germany. It was here that he was spotted by the German aristocrat and explorer Prince Maximilian of Wied-Neuwied.

Maximilian was planning an expedition across the American West and asked Bodmer to join him as the expedition’s official artist.

Start of the journey in 1833

In 1833 Bodmer began the 2,500-mile journey, accompanying Maximilian along the Missouri River. They began in St. Louis and travelling by steamboat and keelboat they made their way to Fort McKenzie (close to the present-day Fort Benton in Montana).

Bodmer’s role during the expedition was to record the sites encountered during the journey including the landscapes and people, and in particular the tribes of Native Americans who lived along the Missouri River.

After spending the winter at Fort Clark, the expedition party made the return journey, after more than a year exploring the Upper Missouri. Bodmer had created numerous black and white illustrations during the trip while Maximilian had detailed notes for the book that would later become the renowned Travels in the Interior of North America.

Paintings reproduced as 81 aquatints

Following their epic journey, Bodmer and Maximilian travelled to Germany and then France where 81 of Bodmer’s paintings from the expedition were reproduced as aquatints. Maximilian included these in his book which was first published in German in 1840 and later in English.

Bodmer made France his home and was made a French citizen. He continued to paint and joined the Barbizon School; an association of painters who specialise in landscapes and artwork featuring animals.

Travels into the Interior of North America provides a valuable record of life along the Missouri River in the 19th century.

Maximilian was keen to create a detailed record, accurately portraying the cultures of the many Native American tribes he met during his travels, including the Mandan and Hidatsa tribes who had settled on the banks of the Missouri. He also recorded the lives of the many nomadic tribes he met including the Sioux, Assiniboine, Plans Cree, Gros Ventres and Blackfoot tribes.

Illustrations bring book to life

Of course, Maximilian’s detailed descriptions provide a fantastic insight into the lives of these tribes but it is Bodmer’s illustrations that truly bring the book to life. His illustrations are widely regarded to be amongst the most detailed and accurate depictions made and gave readers an amazing insight into the lives and customs of these tribes for the first time.

Bodmer’s evocative titles include: A Skin Lodge of an Assiniboin Chief, Dance of the Mandan Indians, and Funeral Scaffold of a Sioux Chief.

Own your own Bodmer giclée print

Our collection includes the complete set of 81 black and white Bodmer illustrations, bringing you the opportunity to own a true copy of the original engravings.

Recreated directly from the originals, each is printed on age-resistant paper using fine art digital printing processes which resist fading for 100 years. Printed with the highest possible resolution, these are indistinguishable from the originals.

These detailed illustrations provide a valuable insight into American history. They will bring years of enjoyment as you imagine stepping into Bodmer’s shoes during his epic expedition, meeting these tribes for the first time.

A note on color

True to the originals, our set of Bodmer giclée prints are produced in black and white.

However, if you would prefer color prints, you can have your prints hand-colored by our expert colorist Jane Niebling. She uses traditional methods to add color to black and white prints, with beautiful results.

Solander Box & Certificate

When investing in the complete Bodmer set, you can also choose our beautiful Solander box as the perfect place to store your collection.

This high-quality box is designed especially for keeping your prints safe and in perfect condition – yet you can still easily look at them whenever you wish.

You willl also receive our Certificate of Authenticity. This shows all the details of your artwork and gives you valuable certification if you ever wish to sell or bequeath your collection in the future.

   

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