It’s about this time of year, when winter knocks at the door to be let in and winter light already casts its influence over the landscape.
Outside the town of New Harmony, where the Wabash River and the Fox River meet, dying trees trailing vines rise from swampy land and cattle come to the rivers to drink. The light is soft, the sun’s rays long. They make even the dying trees seem to glow with life. The water looks soft and misty. Tree branches bare of leaves make lacy patterns among the cypresses. The trees in the distance are softly silhouetted against a glowing sky.
Karl Bodmer painted this ‘Confluence of the Fox River and the Wabash’ in early December, in 1832. He was a visitor to the continent and the region, a Swiss artist contracted to accompany the famous naturalist Prince Maximilian of Weid-Neuwied from Germany to America and record what he saw there.
He traveled with and without Prince Maximilian. With him he traveled from Boston through Pittsburgh and down the Ohio River to Mount Vernon, Indiana before arriving at New Harmony. There he left the prince, and traveled on his own to New Orleans.
Along the way he painted the scenery he saw, the artefacts he found, the Native Americans he met. After he returned to Europe he had many of the scenes he had recorded reproduced as aquatints, and many of these were incorporated into the book Prince Maximilian wrote about his travels. Bodmer had done his work well – even now it is recognized for its great accuracy.
And in this case, it’s beauty.
I wonder, is it so beautiful there still?