Karl Bodmer is considered by many authorities to be the greatest nineteenth-century artist to have produced prints of the American West. In 1832 he came to American with his patron, Prince Maximilian of Wied, to put together as complete a study as possible of the western territories of the United States. The result was the publication of Maximilian’s journals in successive German, French, and English editions between 1839 and 1843, and with it, a picture atlas of eighty-one aquatint plates after paintings by Bodmer. Bodmer was not only a fine artist, but he was also a keen observer and one of the most impressive sights in the American west was the American Bison/Buffalo. Huge herds of this impressive quadruped roamed the American plains and as all other observers to the west, Bodmer was struck with this the Buffalo in its natural setting. This is one of the finest images of the Buffalo in its unspoiled environment of the early nineteenth century. Bodmer’s artistic command of his subject perfectly complemented by the expert aquatinting. A precious moment of 19th-century America captured by one of the now most coveted artists of the period.
The original Bodmer were issued in Travels In the Interior of North America in the Years 1832 to 1834, published in London between 1839 and 1843. These are aquatints, issued both colored and uncolored. Interestingly, from as early as 1835 until 1845, H.R. Schinz issued a natural history, Naturgeschichte und Abbildungen des Menschen, which focused on humans of different races. This included a number of lithographs taken (with permission) from Bodmer’s drawings. The earliest of these actually predated the publication of the aquatints in Maximillian’s Travels. These prints helped to already establish Bodmer’s reputation once that work appeared beginning in 1839, and they are both rare and attractive.
Below is a selection of prints by Karl Bodmer.