Dubuque County Historical Society Images

The Artists, Writers, and Musicians

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Karl Bodmer

Karl Bodmer is credited as being the greatest nineteenth century painter of American rivers. At the age of 23, Bodmer came to the United States from Switzerland in the summer of 1832 with German Prince Alexander Phillip Maximilian of Wied Neuwied to explore the American frontier. He was a young, self-taught engraver and painter. As Bodmer and the Prince trekked across the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers to St. Louis, America's rivers and the boats that overlaid them fascinated Bodmer.

Bodmer's fascination with steamboat culture compelled him to document life along the rivers and the steamboats themselves. These works included the steamboats Napoleon, Delphine, Homer, and Lionesse.

His significance is evident as no artist had ever painted the Upper Missouri beyond its great bend before. Bodmer's paintings will remain timeless classics, preserving the essence of life along the river. Although the wild days along America's longest river may be gone now, Bodmer's beautiful and sensitive paintings document the natural landscape and the lives of the Native peoples. Bodmer passed away in 1893, but his paintings of America's rivers are unforgettable. His frontier scenes, Indian portraits, and steamboat sketches will forever preserve the American landscape and culture of the early 1800's.

Inducted in 1999.



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