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A Frontier Portfolio

June 2024
1min read

Once he learned to draw—as a child in his native Switzerland—Peter Rindisbacher never allowed his talent to rest. Between then and his untimely death in St. Louis at the age of twenty-eight he produced a quantity of work that would have kept many another artist busy for a much longer lifetime; most of it was of consistently high quality. On the long crossing to his new home in America his pencil was always busy. During his brief stay at Hudson’s Bay and later, as he travelled the waterways toward Red River, he found more subjects. But it was at Red River itself that he began to work on the canvases that made his reputation. One of his first pictures, reproduced above, was painted in December of 1821, a month after he and his parents arrived at Lord Selkirk’s isolated colony. The scene is P’ort Gibraltar, an old fur post being rebuilt by the Hudson’s Bay Company on a bluff above the junction of the Red and Assiniboine rivers in the vicinity of present-day Winnipeg, Manitoba. Provisions during that first winter were short, and the colonists, as Rindisbacher shows, were forced to spend much of their time fishing through the ice. When he painted this picture there were only a little more than a dozen years left to him; that he used them well is evident in the portfolio on the next fifteen pages. Except where otherwise indicated, the paintings reproduced here are in the museum of the United States Military Academy at West Point; the editors wish to thank its director, Richard E. Kuehne, for his kind assistance and to acknowledge also the co-operation of the other museums and individual collectors whose paintings we have used. A major Rindisbacher exhibition will open this month at the Amon Carter Museum of Western Art in Fort Worth, Texas. Subsequently it will be shown at other museums in the United States and Canada (the italicized note on page 49 gives fuller details) for the benefit of the two countries where the young Swiss immigrant spent his productive years and whose respective histories he so greatly enriched. — The Editors

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