Karl Bodmer Biography

Karl Bodmer

Swiss

1809-1893

Biography

Johann Karl Bodmer as a Swiss painter of the American West. Born in in 1809 in Zurich, his introduction to art came from his uncle, Jakob Meier. Young Bodmer and his older brother accompanied their uncle on travels throughout their home country. In 1828 he met German explorer Maxmilian zu Weid-Neuwied (Prince Maxmilian), who contracted Bodmer from 1832 to 1834 on his Missouri River expedition. Bodmer was hired as an artist by Maxmilian with the specific intent of traveling through the Midwest and recording images of the different tribes they saw along the way.  It proved a success, and Maxmilian published his book in 1839.

 After their return to Switzerland, Bodmer traveled to France, where he became a citizen, changing his name to Charles Bodmer.  His works from the Missouri expedition are among the most painstakingly accurate images ever made of Native Americans, their culture and artifacts, and of the scenery of the pristine “Old West”.