OMAHA-Drawn from Joslyn's renowned holdings in the Maximilian-Bodmer Collection, Karl Bodmer's Eastern Views: Celebrating Volume 1 of The North American Journals of Prince Maximilian of Wied features 34 watercolors and drawings of the eastern half of the United States painted by the young Swiss artist Karl Bodmer (18091893) during the initial phase of his and Prince Maximilians (17821867) expedition to the upper Missouri frontier in the early 1830s. The exhibition features Volume 1 of Maximilians original journals, here open to pages 8485, upon which the prince recorded his visit to the coal mines at Mauch Chunk (present-day Jim Thorpe), Pennsylvania, and created a charming drawing of the passenger rail carriage that took visitors to the top of the mountain where the mines were located. The exhibition also includes a print based upon Bodmers portraits of the first Indians he and Maximilian encountered on their North American journey a delegation of Sauk and Meskwaki (Fox) they met in St. Louis in March 1833.
Karl Bodmers Eastern Views will be on view in Joslyn Art Museums print gallery from April 26 through August 31. The exhibition celebrates Joslyns publication of Volume 1 of The North American Journals of Prince Maximilian of Wied.
German naturalist Maximilians expedition of 18321834 yielded the most important scientific exploration of the upper Missouri River since the journey of Lewis and Clark nearly 30 years earlier. To provide an accurate visual counterpart to his own written observations of the people and natural features encountered on the trip, Maximilian hired Bodmer, a skilled professional artist. Bodmer exceeded the expectations of his employer by producing in beautifully rendered watercolors and drawings a faithful and vivid picture of the United States during a period of tremendous transformation.
The works in the exhibition illustrate the portion of the journey covered in Volume 1 of the three journals, beginning with a stormy voyage across the Atlantic and ending with the frontier town of St. Louis. Maximilian's primary goal had always been the Western wilderness, but a combination of factors delayed his journey there: the belated delivery of essential supplies, wariness of a cholera epidemic affecting chosen routes of travel, and his own illness that required a lengthy recuperation in New Harmony, Indiana. In the months spent in the east, Bodmer immersed himself in his role as illustrator, producing drawings of the specimens collected for scientific purposes, the natural environment, and of the towns and settlements rapidly overtaking the frontier. His exquisite compositions offer a fascinating window on a brash new nation, from its burgeoning cities on the eastern seaboard to its pioneer farms of Indiana and Illinois.
Many exhibitions and books have featured Joslyns extraordinary holdings of beautifully detailed watercolors and prints by Karl Bodmer. Less attention has been paid to Prince Maximilians manuscript journals, which the prince collectively called his Tagebuch. These journals, each containing about 300 pages filled with the princes daily observations on people, places, flora, fauna, and events, written by him in a now obsolete German script and illustrated with his ink and watercolor drawings, are the subject of a complex, multiyear publication project being carried out by Joslyns Durham Center for Western Studies in partnership with the University of Oklahoma Press. Volume 1, completely translated into modern English and fully annotated to aid the modern reader, will be available nationwide in bookstores, including Joslyns Museum Shop, this June for $85.