The Romance of the West

Good Morning or Afternoon!

Looking at picture after picture of the West, I’ve come to believe that part of the romance of the West was, indeed, the expanse of land, freedom from old World forces that sought to enslave one and the sheer awe and beauty of the land.

So today I thought I’d take you on a tour through the eyes of those who were there when the country was first discovered — and who had the talent to get that image onto canvas.  One of those people was Karl Bodmer. 

Karl Bodmer was a Swiss artist who accompanied Prince Maximilian of Wied on his journey into the Americas.  Bodmer was only 22 years old when the Prince asked him to come along with him on this memorable journey.  Interestingly, Bodmer toured the American West a mere years apart from another artist, George Catlin.

The two men (Maximilian & Bodmer) set off on their journey on May 7, 1832.  Their voyage across the Atlantic took only two months, when they reached Boston. They then made their way west by means of the steamboats of the day, and on foot.  The picture on the left by the way is Niagara Falls and the one off to the right here is Citadel Rock.

Their trip took them 28 months, and Karl painted hundreds of pictures — to my mind, the people of the West bring his work to life, but I also love his pictures of the land and the animals that were here at that time.  Off to the left here is a painting of buffalo and elk quietly grazing on the upper Missouri area.

To the right is a painting called the white walls in the upper Missouri area.  Bodmer originally was a landscape artist, but he more than met the task given him by giving us very real, very beautiful paintings of the people of the time.

And here to the left are the white castels, which are once again in the upper Missouri region.  Can’t you feel the atmosphere of the area?  Its time and place?  Doesn’t it impart in you a sense of freedom, a place where the soul can stretch out to the farthest reaches?  Beautiful!

Here’s another one, only this time the area is Indiana — at the mouth of the Fox River.  You can almost hear the gurgling of the water in the background, can’t you?  Of course, Indiana is pretty far away from the upper Missouri area, but at this time in our history, Indiana was also an untouched land.  Here the tribes of the Sacs and Fox roamed.

But I think, as I’ve mentioned before here on the blogs, the picture off to my right is my favorite of Bodmer’s work.  I have sat by the hour looking at this picture — for it inspired one of my favorite books, THE SPIRIT OF THE WOLF.  Although this replica is good, it’s nothing like the prints that I have in my books, because it doesn’t impart the height of this particular warrior.  This picture is of an Assiniboine brave, and a man thought of very  highly by others in his tribe.  In THE SPIRIT OF THE WOLF, the hero is also Assiniboine, and he looks of course very much like this picture.  Interestingly, this painting also inspired another aspect of that book…gambling…because the hero of that book wins the heroine.  Written around the time of the 200th year anniversary of the Lewis & Clark adventure, I thought I’d mimic the true story of Sacagewea.  This book is still for sale at Amazon, here:

I’ll be giving away a free book today to some lucky blogger.   Oh, and by the way, Connie — where are you, Connie?  You were the winner from 2 weeks ago — so please do email me.  But for everyone else, come on in an leave a comment.  Let’s talk.

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KAREN KAY aka GEN BAILEY is the multi-published author of American Indian Historical Romances. She has written for such prestigious publishers as AVON/HarperCollins, Berkley/Penguin/Putnam and Samhain Publishing. KAREN KAY’S great grandmother was Choctaw Indian and Kay is honored to be able to write about the American Indian Culture.
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33 thoughts on “The Romance of the West”

  1. These paintings are just beautiful, Kay. Imagine a time with no photographs. Pictures like these were the first images people saw of the American West. No wonder the place fired so many imaginations. Looking forward to more of your blogs about these wonderful artists.

  2. Amazing paintings, Karen! Thank you for sharing them. It’s hard to imagine what it would have been like to see the American West as these artists did. You can see why it still sparks the muse of artists and writers today.

  3. Wow, what beautiful pictures. And I know what you mean about looking at a picture by the hour. The longer you look at it, the more you see. After the initial reaction of the emotion of the picture you start to see details that can add so much to a book.
    Love this post. I’m going to go look Bodmer up.

  4. loving all of those pictures. They are very beautiful. To bad there aren’t as many open spaces to find anymore.

  5. Amazing pictures.. Thanks so much for sharing. I am kind of partical to Niagara Falls. I live only about an hour and half away. Have been many times.
    I think I am going to see if I can get that picutre in a print.

  6. Hi Elizabeth, and good morning! Yes, I thought it would be nice to really look at the West through these eyes from our long ago past. So nice to see you here today.

  7. Good Morning Kirsten!

    It is hard to imagine how it must’ve looked. One can get a similar feeling when one visits Montana or Wyoming. Much of that land is still a pure as it was 200 years ago. Interesting.

  8. Good Morning, Mary!

    I love you newest book, by the way. I’m becoming quite the fan — and I’ve also turned on several more people to your books.

    I love the Bodmer pictures. He was so taken with America and the West and its people that later in life he comments that, “There I had friends.” or something like that — that’s probably not an exact quote. Catlin had a similar feeling about the people (Indians) of the West.

  9. Hi Rebekah!

    I love your name, by the way. Love the spelling. You know, I go back and forth across country alot — sometimes by the northern route, sometimes by the southern route and sometimes by the mid route (of which there are two). And the thing I’m always struck by on ALL of these routes is how much of the land is still untouched. Most of our land (and one probably wouldn’t know this is one lives in a city and seldom leaves it) is still untouched and unpopulated.

    When I hear these myths of how “overpopulated” our planet is, I remember my travels and laugh. It’s so not true. But it’s certainly a popular myth. Did you know that the population of the world as it stands right now could fit completely into Texas? Yes, there wouldn’t be much “growing room.” But the point is that it could be done.

    Interestinly when I hear the “myths” of carbon pollution, I also have to laugh. Because our Creator, in His infinite wisdom, created this earth so that the plants take in our carbon as food and then the plants exhale oxygen that we breathe as “food.” That’s not to excuse corporations that pollute our planet — I guess the point is that humans, in their everyday task of living and breathing, are a natural part of what makes this world alive. The more we breathe the better the plants do. The more they breathe, the better for us. I do believe the plan was created that way.

    Sorry to go on and on — your post somehow set me off to thinking this morning.

  10. Good Morning, Kathleen!

    I was just in that area a few months ago (in December) as I made my way home from a visit to New York. What a beauty! Can you imagine seeing it without all the trappings that are there today — to be one of the first Europeans to see it? Of course you know probably the Iroquois myth of the Indian princess and the spirit of the Falls? If not, in my book BLACK EAGLE, I go into this a bit.

    Have a super day!

  11. Good Morning, Karen! I enjoyed reading this post. These paintings by Karl Bodmer are very beautiful. They give you a feel for what it look like at that time period. I would love to have some of those paintings to look at everyday. I am going to have to look Bodmer up. Thanks for such a lovely post today.

  12. The paintings are gorgeous and make you feel like you are there. I never left my hometown until I married and luckily got to see some of this great planet (but never enough – wish I could travel all the time). I remember driving from PA to FL and being amazed at the differences. Then I was able to see some of the west and, again, such a difference. At least I have seen photos and can’t imagine seeing such spectacular views for the very first time!

  13. Good Morning. WOW! Such beautiful pictures. I agree with you about wide open country. Traveling can open one’s eyes to that. The county in which I live, (which is the second largest in the U.S.), we have fewer than 20,000 people!!! We have a lot of wide open spaces. In the Sierra back country there is so much beauty, it brings tears to the eyes, when we see it. Totally untouched. Thanks for the pictures. We really do have a beautiful country.

  14. Gorgeous pictures, Kay. I agree, the west is too beautiful for words. Pictures way it all. What a great time Bodmer must have had. I absolutely love my breath seeing Half Dome from Glacier Point…Last summer’s trip around the Tetons was the same feeling. Great post today. oxoxxo

  15. Interesting article. I have seen some of his other paintings in the Gene Autry Museum of the West in California. They are really huge paintings.

  16. Hi Catslady!

    I admit that I am awed by our country, also. It’s why I really don’t mind driving through it all — instead of flying. You really get to see it and see many of the interesting things that each area has. Caves, battlegrounds, old military bases, etc. 🙂

  17. Oh, Tanya! The Tetons. The first time I saw them, I fell instantly in love. I’ve never seen something so grand and so beautiful. Once seen, I really couldn’t leave it for very long. Even now, Paul and I go up to Montana and Wyoming. Just have to keep going.

  18. Wow,what beautiful pics,those are the kind you dream of seeing ,,love the post,thanks Vickie

  19. Hi Kay,

    The photos are just beautiful. Thank you for sharing this with all of us today.

    I hope you do not mind that I do this but I would like to dedicate your post to my friend, Justin Hooke of the San Carlos Apache Tribe. He was killed on Easter morning in an auto mobile accident. He was the President of the Youth Council and was a great guy who will be missed dearly. My heart weeps for him and his family

    I hope that its okay Kay that I done this because he was for his people.
    If I win the book I will write his name in it for I would dedicate the win to him

    Walk in harmony,

  20. Thank you Melinda for your inspiring post. I’m honored that you would dedicate this post to your friend. My heart goes out to you, Melinda. May the Creator heal your heart and your grief and may you go on from here to do wonderful things for the people.

  21. I saw you post yesterday, but had to hit the road and didn’t get a chance to comment. Lovely paintings. How fortunate we are that talented artist were around to record the places and people of the past. We take photography for granted today, but prior to that we have only these artists to rely on. It must have been quite a feat to carry all that was needed to sketch and paint these pictures as well as finished works with them. Without them, much of the essence of early native american life would have been lost.

    Thanks for a great post as usual.

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