421 CHRONICLESncollection, acquired in 1962 by Inter-nNorth, Inc., a national treasure. “ThenBodmer watercolors are unique in thatnso many highly accomplished worksnhave survived by one artist,” observesnHenry Flood Robert Jr., director of thenJoslyn Art Museum in Omaha, wherenthis collection will be on permanentnloan.nBodmer’s paintings are as visuallynappealing as Tocqueville’s words arenintellectually provocative. Bodmernportrays a passing stage in Americannhistory, when the vast new frontier ofnthe West lay almost untouched, in anstyle suggestive of the Hudson Rivernschool of painting. However, Bodmernhardly romanticized. He recordednwith skill and diligence all that henobserved.nWhile others had preceded Bodmernand Maximilian into the wilderness ofnthe Louisiana Purchase, their journeyn(beginning in the spring of 1832 andnconcluding in August of 1834) is stillnone of the most important of the earlynexpeditions. None of their predecessorsnwere experienced naturalists likenMaximilian or skilled illustrators likenBodmer. Bodmer’s watercolors andnprints were the first accurate portrayalsnof the far western Indians to reach thenpublic, and they were primary accountsnof what soon became virtuallynlost cultures.nPrince Maximilian Alexander Philippnzu Weid-Neuweid first gained renownnfor his explorations of the Braziliannrain forest between 1815-17. Inn1832 Maximilian asked Bodmer—atn23 already recognized as a versatilenSwiss artist and a fine draftsman—tonaccompany him on another expedition,nthis time to North America,nwhere he hoped to examine and collectnthe native plants, animals, andnIndian arhfacts.nBoth men were keen observers.nMaximilian kept meticulous notes innhis journals while Bodmer sketchednand painted. Many of Bodmer’s renderingsnare so precise that landmarksnpainted more than a century and a halfnago can still be identified. (Canaletto’snpaintings, we may recall, served innreconstructing some of the most beautifulnbuildings destroyed during WorldnWar II.) Bodmer painted hundreds ofnwatercolors, vividly preserving thensame landscape, wildlife, frontier settlements,nIndian villages, and peoplenthat Maximilian described in his journals.nWorking from a different perceptionnof nature, Albert Bierstadt spent anmere three days visiting the GrandnCanyon and then painted a large-scalenpainting of it entirely in his studio.nThe result is a breathtaking canvas,nnow found at the Brooklyn Museum,nbut we still may think of Dryden’sncomment, “Bombast is commonly thendelight of that audience which lovesnPoetry, but understands it not.”n- ^n> ^^^^^IHn^S .’•^ntL’^Sln'”WP^n^S&r’:-n^€^m^p**^^3|KHn^W ftMUinVnrps» •<nKidsax (Bear on the Left), PiegannBlackfeet Man. Watercolor on paper.nPhoto courtesy the InterNorth ArtnFoundation, ]oslyn Art Museum,nOmaha.nNone of Bodmer’s works can comparenin scale to Bierstadt’s picture ofnthe Grand Canyon, but together theynprovide us with a remarkably detailednpictorial rendering of mid-19th centurynAmerica on the frontier. His landscapesnand paintings of Indians arenvaluable for another reason, since theyngive us a second glimpse into regionsnmade famous by Audubon.nBodmer was self-confident, but lifenon the trail was not easy for him. Notnonly was he expected to paint, but henalso had to hunt and perform othernchores for the prince. In Pennsylvania,nhis hand was severely injured when anrifle misfired. During the bitter winternof 1833-34 his paints often froze. Henfrequently had to live in cramped,nfilthy quarters, surviving on food thatnwas as unappetizing and monotonousnas it was unnourishing. Many Indians,nfor reasons which struck the Europe­nnnans as superstitious, were reluctant tonbe portrayed. Occasionally an Indiannwho was the subject of Bodmer’s paintingnwould object that the arhst hadnportrayed him unflatteringly. Yet somenof the Mandans took lessons in artnfrom Bodmer while he was camped atnFort Clark.nFollowing his return to Europe,nBodmer moved to Paris to supervisenpreparation of the engraving plates ofnthe paintings selected by Maximiliannto illustrate his book Travels in thenInterior of North America in 1832-34.nIn all, 81 hand-colored aquatints werenreproduced in an atlas to supplementnMaximilian’s text.nBodmer had counted on makingnmoney from this publication. But innspite of efforts to promote its sale, thenbook sold poorly. At one point, Bodmernmade personal appearances withnthe King of France and other celebritiesnto help stimulate purchases. Evennthat did little good. Embittered by thisnexperience, Bodmer later complainednthat he had wasted the most productivenyears of his life on North Americannthemes. He seemed unaware of justnhow important his work was to annunderstanding and appreciation of thenAmerican Western Frontier. Perhapsnunderstandably, Karl Bodmer lost interestnin traveling to distant lands. Henturned down an opportunity to accompanynPrince Maximilian once more,nin a journey to Russia, and later henrejected an offer to accompany anFrench archaeological expedition tonEgypt. Ironically, although Bodmer isnremembered as one of the finest portraitistsnof the American Indian, in hisnlater years he never painted a humannfigure again. His later interests focusednexclusively on forest and animalnscenes, many of them overly sentimental.nAfter the end of his involvementnwith the publication of Maximilian’snbook, Bodmer gradually began to establishnan independent reputation ofnhis own. During the 1850’s, he settlednpermanently outside Paris and becamena respected member of the Barbizonnschool of painting, had several successfulnshows at the Paris Salon, andnregularly contributed engravings to annumber of illustrated magazines. Hendied in 1893.nPrince Maximilian kept many ofnBodmer’s original watercolors andn