Contemporary photographs of 19th century art

Review of "Karl Bodmer's America Revisited" by Robert Lindholm.

  • Citadel Rock is visible for miles along the upper Missouri River. It marks the approximate midpoint of the White Cliffs region of the river, and has been featured in the skethces of several later artists as well.

    Karl Bodmer
  • The mountainous peaks in the background of Bodmer's image are here reduced to the river bluffs enclosing the valley.

    Robert M. Lindholm
  • The Seven Sisters are among the few formations that appear in more than one of Bodmer's sketches.

    Karl Bodmer
  • These free-standing columns of white sandstone have defied the erosive power of wind and rain for ages, showing almost no change in the more than a century and a half since Bodmer's brush captured them.

    Robert M. Lindholm
  • The buffalo skull atop this Assiniboin rock cairn is believed to have helped Indians draw bison to their hunters and ensure a successful hunt.

    Karl Bodmer
  • Though no trace remained of the bison skull, rangers at Fort Union National Historic Site discovered its base of tumbled-down stones resting on a hilltop northeast of the fort.

    Robert M. Lindholm
 

Karl Bodmer’s America Revisited
Robert M. Lindholm, W. Raymond Wood
240 pages, hardcover:
$45
University of Oklahoma Press, 2013.


In 1832, just under three decades after Lewis and Clark trekked across North America, another, lesser-known voyage covered similar ground. A group of Europeans led by Prince Maximilian Alexander Philipp of Wied-Neuwied (in what is now Germany) traveled from ­Massachusetts to Montana, then back to New York, accompanied by Swiss artist Karl Bodmer.

In Karl Bodmer’s America Revisited, contemporary photographer Robert Lindholm tracks down and shoots the same vistas and landmarks Bodmer depicted. Each page presents two images side-by-side: Bodmer’s romantic renderings of the past and Lindholm’s photograph of the present landscape. The book winds its way through the pastoral Midwest, the Black Hills of South Dakota, and then to the unusual riverbank formations in central and western Montana. Bodmer was clearly captivated by these towering rocks, and Lindholm’s photographs reveal why: Tall and austere, they still arise from meandering banks to stand like statues, perfectly still and unchanging as the water, and the years, flow by.