Cover Art Description:
When artist Karl Bodmer (1809-1893) prepared to set off on a scientific expedition to the upper Missouri in spring 1833, he and his patron, Maximilian, Prince of Wied-Neuwied, stopped first in St. Louis to confer with fur traders and explorers familiar with the region. At the time, the American West to most people was, as William Goetzmann has said, "a land of hearsay, the dark side of the moon." So Bodmer and Maximilian conferred with those in the know, among whom was none other than William Clark, the man who, with Meriwether Lewis, had made the first exploration of the region not quite thirty years earlier. Lewis was long dead and Clark was aging, but much about the upper Missouri remained the same since their epic exploration, a journey that is receiving increasing attention as we approach its bicentennial. Among observances already completed is a PBS series by historical documentary-maker Ken Burns, which aired this past fall and is reviewed by former Montana editor William L. Lang beginning on page 56.
For his part, Bodmer, a Zurich-trained painter, immortalized a world in 1833-1834 that, in the next few years, would change profoundly and forever. In some 140 works, Bodmer fashioned striking portraits of individual Indians, views of their villages, portrayals of their ceremonies and buffalo hunts, and landscapes that captured the mystery, expanse, color, and light of the upper Missouri. Among the latter type of works was Buffalo and Elk on the Upper Missouri (watercolor on paper, 9-3/4" x 12-1/4"), reproduced on the cover courtesy of the Joslyn Art Museum of Omaha, Nebraska.
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