BODMER, Karl (1809-1893)
View of Bethlehem (Pennsylvania)
[Vig. 3] Paris, Coblenz and London: [1839-1842]. Hand-coloured aquatint engraving by Lucas Weber after Bodmer, blindstamp. Sheet size: 10 3/8 x 12 1/2 inches. Framed in bird's-eye maple, gold liner, French mat. 22 1/2 x 25 inches.
Provenance: Donaldson, Lufkin &Jenrette Americana Collection
A pastoral landscape scene of great serenity: the wheat has been cut and the stubble has yet to be ploughed in, the farming community takes a momentary rest from their labours. Another harvest safely gathered in. In the early-morning sun few people are around as Bodmer completes his sketch. After a day long journey Bodmer and Prince Maximilian had arrived on the evening of July 25 1832 at Bethlehem, a settlement of Moravians established in 1740 on the Lehigh River. Whilst the Prince toured the district with a German physician, Lewis Saynisch, Bodmer occupied himself by sketching the town and the surrounding countryside. This is the view from one of the highest points in Bethlehem, The buildings in the view still stand.
Karl Bodmer's images show great versatility and technical virtuosity and give us a uniquely accomplished and detailed picture of a previously little understood (and soon to vanish) way of life. Swiss-born Bodmer was engaged by Prince Maximilian zu Wied-Neuwied (1782-1867) specifically to provide a record of his travels in North America, principally among the Plains Indians. In the company of David Dreidoppel (Prince Maximilian's servant and hunting companion), their travels in North America were to last from 1832 to 1834. They arrived in Boston in July 1832, traveled on to Philadelphia, where they stayed with Napoleon Bonaparte's elder brother Joseph. From here they headed west across Pennsylvania across the Alleghenies to Pittsburgh and the Ohio country, visiting all the important German settlements en route. Their most important stop on their route west was at the utopian colony of New Harmony in Indiana. The Prince spent five months there in the company of some of the country's leading scientific men, and studying all the relevant literature on backcountry America. On 24 March 1833 the party reached St. Louis, Missouri, and the start of the journey into Indian country.
Graff 4648; Howes M443a; Pilling 2521; Sabin 47014; Wagner-Camp 76:1.