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Exhibitions/ Karl Bodmer: North American Portraits

Karl Bodmer: North American Portraits

At The Met Fifth Avenue
April 5–July 25, 2021

Exhibition Overview

Swiss-born Karl Bodmer (1809–1893) was one of the first and most accomplished European artists to document the landscape of the North American interior and its Indigenous peoples. He was hired by the German explorer and naturalist Maximilian, Prince of Wied-Neuwied, to accompany an expedition to the northwestern reaches of the Missouri River in 1833–34. Together they traveled from Saint Louis through the tribal lands of the Omaha, Mandan, Hidatsa, and Blackfoot, among many Plains nations where Bodmer executed watercolor portraits in situ. A meticulous draftsman, he produced portraits that are notable for their sensitivity of depiction and subtle, refined brushwork. Bodmer’s precise observation of his sitters—in facial likeness, body decoration, and regalia—conveys eyewitness testimony to the lives of specific individuals and the complexity of cultural encounters. The exhibition features thirty-five portraits, along with six landscape and genre scenes, and several related aquatints, all from the comprehensive Bodmer holdings of the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha.


"Pathbreaking exhibition"—The Magazine Antiques

The exhibition is made possible by the Warner Foundation Fund and the Louis and Virginia Clemente Foundation Fund.

It is organized by the Margre H. Durham Center for Western Studies, Joslyn Art Museum, in association with The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in

Virtual Public Programs

Exhibition Objects

Karl Bodmer (Swiss, Riesbach 1809–1893 Barbizon). Péhriska-Rúhpa, Hidatsa Man (detail), 1834. Watercolor and graphite on paper, 17 1/8 x 11 15/16 in. Joslyn Art Museum, Gift of the Enron Art Foundation (1986.49.275)