Karl Bodmer


Karl Bodmer was a little-known Swiss painter when he was chosen by Prince Maximilian of Prussia to accompany his voyage to America, in order to document in pictorial terms the expedition. With the rest of Maximilian’s company, the two traveled among the Plains Indians from 1832 to 1834, a time when the Plains and the Rockies were still virtually unknown. They arrived in the West before acculturation had begun to change the lives of the Indians, and Bodmer, who was a protegé of the great naturalist von Humboldt, brought a trained ethnologist’s eye to the task. The Bodmer/Maximilian collaboration produced a record of their expedition that is incontestably the finest early graphic study of the Plains tribes.

Maximilian and Bodmer journeyed from St. Louis up the Missouri River on the American Fur Company steamboat “Yellowstone,” stopping at a series of forts built by the Fur Company and meeting their first Indians at Bellevue. The travelers continued on another steamboat, “Assiniboin,” to Fort Union, where they met the Crees and Assiniboins. The expedition spent its first winter at Fort
Fort MacKenzie, 28th of August 1833 Attack of the Assinboin and reeks on the Blackfeet camped near Fort MacKenzie. The Blackfeet, caught unaware, were slow to retaliate, but after a day-long battle, the Assinboins were forced to retreat. The only known rendering of an Indian battle by a white eyewitness. $23,000.
Clark, where the Mandans in particular excited Bodmer’s attention, although he was also to draw the Minatarri and Crow peoples. The explorers continued by keelboat to Fort Mackenzie, which proved to be the westernmost point of their journey. After living among and studying the Blackfeet for several weeks, Maximilian decided that it was too dangerous to continue, so the travelers returned southward, reaching St. Louis in May 1834.

After the conclusion of the journey, Bodmer spent four years in Paris supervising the production of the aquatints made from his drawings. These prints rank with the finest Western art in any medium, and they are the most complete record of the Plains Indians before the epidemics of the mid19th century had decimated their numbers, and before the white man’s expansion had taken their lands. In contrast to other artist-explorers of the 19th century, such as George Catlin, Bodmer was well-trained in the classic European tradition. The work that he did in America is considered to be the high point of a distinguished career. Perhaps more significant, the plates made from Bodmer's sketches were the first truly accurate images of the Plains Indians to reach the general public. Because the 1837 smallpox epidemic killed more than half the Blackfeet and almost all the Mandans, Bodmer’s visually striking work, together with prince Maximilian’s detailed studies of these tribes, form the primary accounts of what became virtually lost cultures. Bodmer’s magisterial work encompasses the most celebrated images of American Indian life from the 19th century. MIH-TUTTA-HANGKUSH A Mandan Village This was the largest Mandan village, consisting of about 65 earth lodges. Indian women in their tub-like buffalo hide boats are portrayed crossing the Missouri. $15,000.
Indian Utensils and Arms Prince Maximilian collected Indian tools and weapons, which Bodmer sketched in careful detail. The drums belonged to Mato-Tope. $7,500.
Indian Utensils and Arms Artifacts of the Mandan tribe including Mato-Tope’s buffalo robe decorated


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