Tab 31- Indians Hunting the Bison

Karl Bodmer

Bodmer’s America


Pulled from the original steel and copper plates, engraved in Paris between 1836 and 1843 under Karl Bodmer's direction, after the artist's own watercolours drawn from nature during the journey.

The engravings are hand-printed in colours, à la poupée, with extensive hand-colouring and some application of gum arabic, in the nineteenth-century manner.

Engraved by Charles Vogel
Printed by Bougeard

Although no watercolor corresponding to this specific scene is presently known, several studies of bison or buffalo by Bodmer are included in Joslyn's collection, all made near Fort Union in the fall of 1833, during a hunt in which both the artist and Prince Maximilian participated.

Maximilian recorded in his journal that they set out with a party of hunters from the fort on the morning of October 11, and toward noon sighted their first buffalo. After a brief respite for lunch, they rode further and discovered a small herd from which they selected six bulls and gave chase, the more experienced hunters standing in their stirrups and shooting from that position at full gallop.

Maximilian noted that "they quickly toss the powder into the barrel without wadding it; they keep the bullets in their mouths and let one roll onto the powder, where it sticks firmly,"

The prince became separated from the main party and spent nearly an hour catching up with it:

"It was already close to dusk when I heard shooting and finally found Baptiste Marcellais, who had killed two animals, of which he was just cutting one up. The second lay behind a summit, where I found Bodmer, who was just about to draft a sketch of it."

Bodmer re-created this experience of the hunt for the atlas featuring Assiniboin hunters pursuing their quarry on horseback in traditional Plains fashion. This aquatint has since become one of his most popular prints.

Other wildlife subjects are included in Vignette XXI, and Tableaux 29, 36, and 41.

Text by David Hunt, Director, Stark Museum, Orange, Texas, USA

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