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Memorable Manitobans: Peter Rindisbacher (1806-1834)

Artist.

He was born at Upper Emmenthal, Canton Berne, Switzerland, on 27 April 1806, the son of Peter Rindisbacher and Barbara Wyss. By the age of six he showed such talent as an artist that he was excused from farm labour. At the age of twelve he was given permission to accompany the landscape painter, Jacob Samuel Weibel, on a painting trip into the Swiss Alps.

In 1821 the Rindisbacher family came to the Selkirk Settlement. Peter obtained a position as clerk with the Hudson’s Bay Company but turned to watercolour painting to help support his family, thus becoming the first resident professional artist west of the Great Lakes. His subject matter was mainly the frontier and Indian life around the Hudson’s Bay Company forts. His work so impressed Governor Bulger that a buffalo hunting party was organized to allow Rindisbacher to depict the hunt in accurate drawing. By 1824 he was receiving requests for copies of his sketches from Company employees and officials as far away as London. Robert Pelly had oil copies made in England of some of his works, and colour lithographs of these were sold without remuneration to the artist.

The flood of 1826 destroyed most of the Colony and the Rindisbacher and other Swiss families moved to the United States, settling in Wisconsin. Rindisbacher moved to St. Louis in 1829 and established a successful landscape and portraiture business.

Rindisbacher died on 13 August 1834, from cholera. He was buried with military honours by the St. Louis Grays, of which he was a member. A collection of Rindisbacher pictures was given to St. John’s College by Canon Field and was later purchased from the College by the Archives of Manitoba. His work is also held by the Glenbow Institute (Calgary).

See also:

Historic Sites of Manitoba: Peter Rindisbacher Plaque (Colony Street, Winnipeg)

Peter Rindisbacher: New Discoveries by Laura Peers
Manitoba History, Number 33, Spring 1997

The Young Artist of the Red River by Ross Mitchell
Manitoba Pageant, Volume 3, Number 1, September 1957

The Artist Was a Young Man: The Life Story of Peter Rindisbacher by A. M. Josephy (1970).

Peter Rindisbacher, Dictionary of Canadian Biography VI, 648-50.

Sources:

Pioneers and Early Citizens of Manitoba, Winnipeg: Manitoba Library Association, 1971.

Dictionary of Manitoba Biography by J. M. Bumsted, Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1999.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 18 December 2011

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