The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 90, July 1986 - April, 1987 Page: 98
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
Karl Bodmer's America is an impressive collaboration, one of interest to
both the layman and the scholar. The 359 plates, 275 of which are ex-
cellent color reproductions, have been intelligently arranged and anno-
tated by David C. Hunt and Marsha V. Gallagher of the Joslyn Museum.
The order of the plates, along with the annotations, which are based
primarily on Maximilian's published and unpublished accounts of the
journey, enable the reader to follow the scientist's and artist's expedition
and to vicariously experience something of their awe and wonder as the
panorama of the New World and its native inhabitants opened itself to
them. An essay by William J. Orr, curator at the Joslyn, fills in some of
the details of the artist's life both before and after his trip to the United
States. Although it may raise as many questions as it answers, Orr's con-
tribution is a significant piece of detective work on a subject for which
very few ready sources exist. William H. Goetzmann, professor of
American Studies and history at the University of Texas at Austin, has
also contributed an important and stimulating essay which places the
work of both Bodmer and Prince Maximilian in its historical and intel-
lectual context. As Goetzmann explains, the two are significant in several
ways. First, they are important examples of a common, but little under-
stood, phenomenon of the early nineteenth century-scientist/artists
whose world view embraced both the Enlightenment's interest in order
and exactitude and Romanticism's fascination with "the remote and the
exotic" (p. 6). Second, their work documents, even more expertly than
that of Bodmer's better-known contemporary, George Catlin, those
"pivotal years" (p. 3) in the history of the American West, when the
trans-Mississippi region was just beginning to be explored and before
the landscape, as well as its native inhabitants, began to lose their myste-
rious and unspoiled aspect.
Two flaws in the volume are omissions of information that would
have been valuable perhaps more to the scholar than to the general
reader. First, although the annotations usually mention sources within
the text, footnotes giving exact citations and credit would have been
preferable. Second, there are no comparisons between the original wa-
tercolors and sketches reproduced in the volume and the aquatints
which Bodmer and Prince Max later published. Although Hunt and
Gallagher are careful to point out which plates are sources for later en-
gravings, a few side-by-side reproductions not only would have pointed
out the difference between the two media, but also would have under-
scored the amazing freshness and beauty of Bodmer's originals, pub-
lished here in their entirety for the first time.
The University of Texas at Austin
EMILY F. CUTRER
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 90, July 1986 - April, 1987, periodical, 1986/1987; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117152/m1/124/: accessed July 23, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.