Heyoka’s Workbench


(Karl Bodmer, Swiss-French printmaker, painter, illustrator, and more)

When I first stumbled upon the name Karl Bodmer, I was a kid of maybe eight years. My parents took me along to the Indianermuseum (as it was then named) near my native city Dresden. I was thunderstruck and stood marvelling at all the things that once had belonged to real Lakota and Siksika and Tlingit and Pueblo! Weapons, tools, garments, ritual and artistic artifacts, anything you could imagine!

Afterwards, my parents bought me a booklet published by the museum. It included a short outline of the history and cultures of Native Americans and many interesting details – like an explanation of the different types of face and body paint, and a long list of the linguistic groups and the respective tribes (which I later learned by heart).

And: there were some paintings by Karl Bodmer, used as illustrations. They were marvellous and I remember that I was especially impressed by the picture of a dancing Hidatsa warrior belonging to the Dog Society.

Since last Tuesday, I’m the happy owner of a copy of »Karl Bodmer’s America«, a huge tome comprising a collection of Bodmer’s works, published by the Joslyn Art Museum in 1984. And thus, once again, I’m revelling in the hundreds of sketches and paintings of a great artist and traveller.

Portrait of Karl Bodmer, Swiss-French artist and traveller