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Buffalo Hunt

Buffalo Hunt
watercolor and ink on paper
10 x 14 1⁄4 in. (25.4 x 36.2 cm.)
Private collection, England.
Bonham’s, Toronto, Canada, 19 June 2008, lot 131.
Private collection, Santa Fe, New Mexico, acquired from the above.
Christie's, New York, 18 May 2011, lot 34, sold by the above.
Acquired by the late owner from the above.

Brought to you by

Tylee Abbott
Tylee Abbott Vice President, Head of American Art

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Lot Essay

Several years before George Catlin, Alfred Jacob Miller or Karl Bodmer ever set foot in the American West, Peter Rindisbacher created drawings and watercolors of American Indians and frontier life that today are considered historical, ethnological and artistic rarities. Born in Switzerland in 1806, Rindisbacher emigrated with his family to the Selkirk colony on the Red River of Canada, filled with promises of a temperate climate and fertile land. Possessing a prodigious talent for drawing, Rindisbacher became the colony's unofficial graphic storyteller, recording pioneer life on the northern American frontier. Most significantly, he depicted the appearances and customs of the local Chippewa, Assiniboine, Cree and Eastern Sioux Indian populations in accurate detail.

After several disastrous floods and crop failures, the settlers of the Red River colony abandoned their settlement in 1826. Rindisbacher and his family moved south to farm the Gratiot settlement, in what is now the western end of the Illinois and Wisconsin border. Here Rindisbacher again attracted attention for his depictions of the local Indians and his miniature portraits of fellow settlers. The artist spent the remainder of his short life in Saint Louis where he moved in 1829 and opened a studio advertising, "Miniature & Landscape Paintings, on the most reasonable terms." In 1830, the Hudson's Bay Company staged a buffalo hunt for Rindisbacher to paint from life, which resulted in some of the earliest European depictions of Plains buffalo hunting.

Three years following Rindisbacher's death in 1834, a color lithograph of his painting Hunting the Buffalo (circa 1830, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas) became the frontispiece for the first volume of the folio edition of The Indian Tribes of North America, with Biographical Sketches and Anecdotes of the Principal Chief, a three-volume collection of large plates of Indian paintings, published in Philadelphia by Edward C. Biddle for Thomas L. McKinney and James Hall. This publication secured the artist's status as a premier recorder of a vanishing way of life on the American frontier.

Rindisbacher is known to have produced more than 124 paintings during his career. Forty of his artworks are currently held by the Library and Archives of Canada, Ottawa. Other large concentrations of his paintings are located in the collections of the West Point Museum of the United States Military Academy and the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

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