Vig VIII - Cut-Off River (Branch of the Wabash)

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 Lucas Weber
Printed by Bougeard


From the beginning of his travels in North America, Maximilian had planned to stop at New Harmony, Indiana, to visit its naturalist-in-residence, Charles-Alexandre Lesueur, and the distinguished scientist, Thomas Say, who had accompanied Major Stephen Long to the Rocky Mountains in 1819-21. The stay at New Harmony proved longer than intended, due mainly to the prince's ill health and his need to rest and regain his strength.

Over the next five months, the travelers from Europe became well acquainted with life on the American frontier. Bodmer, in particular, undertook frequent excursions into the wilderness along the Fox and Wabash rivers, making occasional side-trips into neighboring Illinois to visit the rural settlements there. Among his watercolors of the forest landscape along the Wabash was a view of the Cut-off River, a tributary of the Wabash, which later was featured in the atlas of prints published in Europe. Other views of New Harmony and the Fox River were reproduced as Tableaux 2 and 5 in this series.

Unaccompanied by Prince Maximilian, Bodmer traveled down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers in January, 1833, and spent a week in New Orleans, Louisiana, before returning to New Harmony. He made his first studies of North American Indians on the lower Mississippi, but nothing documenting this voyage was included in the picture-atlas.

The travelers from Europe were not free from illness during their first months in North America, and Maximilian frequently noted the state of his health or that of members of his party in his daily journal accounts. According to this source, Driedoppel took cold early in August, suffering from "diarrhoea, vomiting, and . . . pains of the stomach" at the same time. This may have been a bout of the flu, or a similar illness to that of Maximilian, who described his own condition as a debilitating complaint "resembling cholera."

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

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