Karl Bodmer (Born 1809) was born in Zurich, Switzerland. His uncle, Johann Jakob Meier, became his teacher when he was 13 years old. Meier was an engraver, a well known artist who studied under prominent artists Gabriel Lory and Heinrich Fussli. Bodmer and his older brother called Rudolf joined Meier on his artistic travels throughout their home country. This helped them to learn a lot from him. Bodmer was just 23 years old when he signed on to accompany Prince Maximilian zu Wied-Neuwied on his Missouri River Expedition. Prince was German ethnologist, explorer, and naturalist. His first hand watercolor sketches were completed between 1832 and 1834 during the expedition up the Missouri River. Bodmer returned to Germany with Prince Maximilian and oversaw the production of the engravings that illustrated the travel atlas.
Most of his original watercolors are held by the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha, Nebraska. Bodmer was well known in Germany for his drawings, watercolors and aquatints of landscapes and cities of the Lahn, Mosel, and Rhine rivers. As a member of the Barbizon School - he created many oil paintings with animal motifs as well as wood engravings, drawings, and book illustrations. Barbizon School is the mid-19th century French landscape painting group. In the United States, Bodmer is best known as a painter who best captured the 19th century American West with extremely accurate depictions of its inhabitants. Maximilian hired Bodmer as an artist with the specific intent of traveling through the American West and recording images of towns, rivers, cities and people they saw along the way.