May 20, 2009

Bodmer exhibit in Switzerland

Swiss painter Karl Bodmer visited the American West and did a famous series of Indian paintings. Now they're on display in a new exhibit.

Swiss artist's views of Old West in Zurich show

By Hanns NeuerbourgAfter a 48-day trans-Atlantic passage, Wied's party arrived on July 4, 1832, in Boston, then a city of 80,000, where the disappointed explorer could not spot a single Native American. They made a brief tour of Eastern sites, but as they were intent on looking into the native culture, they had only little interest in the growing "Europeanization" of the East Coast.

The party soon left on a highly adventurous expedition by stagecoach, foot and steamboat, eventually traveling almost 2,000 miles up the Missouri river to Fort McKenzie, then a fur-trading post in central Montana. All along the way, Bodmer painted the scenery and the Native Americans the travelers met.

Impressive portraits, especially of Mato-Tope, a warrior chief of the Mandan tribe, are among the various highlights of the Zurich exhibition. A picture of his buffalo robe, painted with dramatic scenes of a fight he had with a Cheyenne chief, is of special interest.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Thoughts on "Legacy and Legend."

Below:  "Four Bears (Mato-Tope), a Mandan chief; full-length, standing, holding lance and wearing a painted and quilled shirt. Artwork by Karl Bodmer, 1833-34."

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