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Painting of "Sunset Bend" by Karl Bodmer

Date: 1833


Description: This photograph is actually of a painting done by Karl E. Bodmer, a Swiss explorer and painter. From 1832 to 1834 he accompanied the German Prince Maximillian zu Weid-Neuweid on an expedition up the Missouri River. Bodmer is usually more famous for his Native American artwork. Prince Maximillian was intensely interested in the native peoples of the American West, and contracted Bodmer to accompany him and create illustrations of the culture.


This painting, however, is quite special. It shows a mound of land, probably loess, just upriver from the grave of Sergeant Floyd called by people in this time simply as “Sunset Bend.” There was no Sioux City in 1833. Settlers were not even permitted to lay down permanent settlement this far west, and the only white settlers in the region would have been trappers and traders obtaining furs to sell in St. Louis or farther east to the brand new city of Chicago. Given the recorded location of Sunset Bend in Prince Maximillian’s book on the interior of the Americas, it is likely very near where Sioux City would eventually be established. Thus Bodmer’s paintings are some of the oldest pictures of Siouxland ever recorded. A large collection of Bodmer’s work, including this painting, is currently housed at the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha.


Donor: Obtained with permission from the Joslyn Art Museum.

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