Peter Rindisbacher Canadian scene
‘A Gentleman Travelling in a Dog Cariole in Hudson’s Bay with an Indian Guide’ by Peter Rindisbacher – estimated at £50,000-80,000 at Bonhams.

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Among a group of Canadian works consigned to the sale in London on September 14 is a rare painting showing an indigenous figure and settlers by Peter Rindisbacher (1806-1834).

The Swiss-born artist painted scenes of life on the North American frontier, including views of native peoples which have become an important historical record of the vanishing way of life that occurred in this period and subsequently.

After arriving in Hudson Bay with his family in 1821, the 15-year-old Rindisbacher, who had already trained as an artist under the Bernese miniaturist Jakob Samuel Weibel, began supporting his family by selling his small but detailed sketches, including some of the Hudson's Bay Company officials.

A series of these early views were later turned into lithographs and published in London in 1823-24 – described as ‘taken by a gentleman on the spot’.

The example at Bonhams is titled A Gentleman Travelling in a Dog Cariole in Hudson’s Bay with an Indian Guide and shows the traditional mode of transport in the artist’s adopted country. Executed in 1824 when the artist was 18, the work is billed as “one of his finest works” and estimated at £50,000-80,000.

Prints aside, only around 10 of Rindisbacher’s works have emerged at auction before. The highest price of $130,000 (£79,500) came for one titled Hunting the Bison that sold at the auction of dealer Graham Arader’s collection at Sotheby’s New York in 2009.

While figurative studies of indigenous people and depictions of bison hunts have appeared before, this example at Bonhams appears to the first at auction to feature a winter scene with a dog sleigh.

Pictorial record

Rindisbacher came to Canada after his parents decided to emigrate from Switzerland to Lord Selkirk's Red River colony in Winnipeg in the North West of the country. They were one of 56 Swiss families that made the journey in 1821.

In 1826 the Rindisbacher family moved to St. Louis, Missouri where Peter enjoyed a successful career as an artist until his untimely death in 1834. He is believed to have died of cholera.

Three years after his death, the folio edition of The Indian Tribes of North America, with Biographical Sketches and Anecdotes of the Principal Chief was published – a work featuring three volumes of large plates by Rindisbacher that is regarded as among the most accurate pictorial records of the native peoples of the Subarctic and the Northern Great Plains.

Pope’s ornithological archive

Another name featured in the Bonhams sale is William Pope (1811-1902), an artist who set out for Canada from Kent in 1834 and produced a series of detailed pictures of birds and fish executed in watercolour, bodycolour and pen and ink. Pope would later settle in Canada, near Port Ryerse, Ontario living there from 1859 until his death at the age of 92.

The auction will offer an archive containing 54 original studies made between 1834-47 that have come for sale from the direct descendants of the artist.

Few of his works have ever appeared at auction in part because the artist never offered his pictures instead making them for his own interest.

The archive is estimated at £30,000-50,000.