Albert Bierstadt

Albert Bierstadt (January 7, 1830 – February 18, 1902) was a German-American painter best known for his lavish, sweeping landscapes of the American West. To paint the scenes, Bierstadt joined several journeys of the Westward Expansion. Though not the first artist to record these sites, Bierstadt was the foremost painter of these scenes for the remainder of the 19th century.

Born in Prussia, Bierstadt was brought to the United States at the age of one by his parents. He later returned to study painting for several years in Düsseldorf. He became part of the Hudson River School in New York, an informal group of like-minded painters who started painting along the Hudson River. Their style was based on carefully detailed paintings with romantic, almost glowing lighting, sometimes called luminism. An important interpreter of the western landscape, Bierstadt, along with Thomas Moran, is also grouped with the Rocky Mountain School.[1]

Albert Bierstadt
Albert Bierstadt by Napoleon Sarony
BornJanuary 7, 1830
DiedFebruary 18, 1902 (aged 72)
New York City, United States
EducationDüsseldorf School
Known forPainting
MovementHudson River School

Early life and education

Bierstadt was born in Solingen, Prussia, the son of Christina M. (Tillmans) and Henry Bierstadt, a cooper.[2] He had a brother who was 6 years older, the later photographer Edward Bierstadt. In 1831, when Albert was just one year old his family immigrated to New Bedford, Massachusetts. At an early age he made clever crayon sketches in his youth and developed a taste for art.[3]

In 1851, Bierstadt began to paint in oils.[3] He returned to Prussia in 1853 and studied painting for several years in Düsseldorf with members of its informal school of painting. After returning to New Bedford in 1857, he taught drawing and painting briefly, before devoting himself full-time to painting.[4]


In 1858, Bierstadt exhibited a large painting of a Swiss landscape at the National Academy of Design, which gained him positive critical reception and honorary membership in the Academy.[4] Bierstadt began painting scenes in New England and upstate New York, including in the Hudson River valley. He was part of a group of artists known as the Hudson River School.

Albert Bierstadt - Rocky Mountain Landscape - Google Art Project
Rocky Mountain Landscape, in the White House
Albert Bierstadt - Among the Sierra Nevada, California - Google Art Project
Among the Sierra Nevada, California (1868), Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC

In 1859, Bierstadt traveled westward in the company of Frederick W. Lander, a land surveyor for the U.S. government, to see those western American landscapes for his work.[5] He returned to a studio he had taken at the Tenth Street Studio Building in New York with sketches for numerous paintings he then finished. In 1860, he was elected a member of the National Academy of Design; he received medals in Austria, Bavaria, Belgium, and Germany.[6]

In 1863, he traveled West again, this time in the company of the author Fitz Hugh Ludlow, whose wife he later married. Throughout the 1860s, Bierstadt used studies from this trip as the source for large-scale paintings for exhibition and he continued to visit the American West throughout his career. The immense canvases he produced after his trips with Lander and Ludlow established him as the preeminent painter of the western American landscape.[7] Bierstadt's technical proficiency, earned through his study of European landscape, was crucial to his success as a painter of the American West and accounted for his popularity in disseminating views of the Rocky Mountains to those who had not seen them.[7]

During the American Civil War (1861 to 1865), Bierstadt was drafted in 1863 and paid for a substitute to serve in his place. By 1862, he had completed one Civil War painting Guerrilla Warfare, Civil War based on his brief experiences with soldiers stationed at Camp Cameron in 1861.[8] That painting was based on a stereoscopic photograph taken by his brother Edward Bierstadt, who operated a photography studio at Langley's Tavern in Virginia. The painting received a positive review when it was exhibited at the Brooklyn Art Association at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in December 1861. Curator Eleanor Jones Harvey observed that the painting, created from photographs, "is quintessentially that of a voyeur, privy to the stories and unblemished by the violence and brutality of first-hand combat experience."[8]

Financial recognition confirmed his status: The Rocky Mountains, Lander's Peak, completed in 1863, was purchased for $25,000 in 1865.[9]

In 1867, Bierstadt traveled to London, where he exhibited two landscape paintings in a private reception with Queen Victoria.[7] He traveled through Europe for two years, cultivating social and business contacts to sustain the market for his work overseas.[7] His exhibition pieces were brilliant images, which glorified the American West as a land of promise and "fueled European emigration". He painted Among the Sierra Nevada, California in his Rome studio for example, showed it in Berlin and London before shipping it to the U.S.[10] As a result of the publicity generated by his Yosemite Valley paintings in 1868, Bierstadt's presence was requested by every explorer considering a westward expedition, and he was commissioned by the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad to visit the Grand Canyon for further subject matter.[11]

Bierstadt's choice of grandiose subjects was matched by his entrepreneurial flair. His exhibitions of individual works were accompanied by promotion, ticket sales, and, in the words of one critic, a "vast machinery of advertisement and puffery."[10]

Rosalie Osborne Bierstadt, standing, unknown date, William Kurtz
Rosalie Bierstadt, unknown date

Despite his popular success, Bierstadt was criticized by some contemporaries for the romanticism evident in his choices of subject and his use of light was felt to be excessive.

In 1876, his wife was diagnosed with tuberculosis, and from then until her death in 1893, Bierstadt spent time with her in the warmer climate of Nassau in the Bahamas. He also continued to travel to the West and Canada. In later life, Bierstadt's work fell increasingly out of critical favor. It was attacked for its theatrical tone.[7]

In 1882, a fire destroyed Bierstadt's studio at Irvington, New York, and with it many of his paintings.[3] By the time of his death on February 18, 1902,[12] the taste for epic landscape painting had long since subsided. Bierstadt was then largely forgotten. He was buried at the Rural Cemetery in New Bedford, Massachusetts.

Posthumous reception

Interest in Bierstadt's work was renewed in the 1960s with the exhibition of his small oil studies.[7] Subsequent reassessment of his work has placed it in a favorable context, as stated in 1987:

The temptation (to criticize him) should be steadfastly resisted. Bierstadt's theatrical art, fervent sociability, international outlook, and unquenchable personal energy reflected the epic expansion in every facet of western civilization during the second half of the nineteenth century.[13]

Bierstadt was a prolific artist, having completed over 500 paintings during his lifetime.[14]

Existing work

Selected paintings

Albert Bierstadt - Roman Fish Market. Arch of Octavius - Google Art Project

Roman Fish Market. Arch of Octavius. De Young Museum, San Francisco, California

Guerrilla Warfare

Guerilla Warfare, Civil War by Albert Bierstadt, 1862, Century Association, New York, NY

Bierstadt Albert Staubbach Falls Near Lauterbrunnen Switzerland

Staubbach Falls, Near Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland, 1865

Bierstadt Albert - Yosemite Valley

Yosemite Valley, Yosemite Park, c. 1868, Oakland Museum, Oakland, California

HRSOA AlbertBierstadt-Storm in the Mountains

Storm in the Mountains, c. 1870, Museum of Fine Art, Boston, MA

Albert Bierstadt - Mount Corcoran

Mount Corcoran, c. 1876–77, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Gosnold at Cuttyhunk

Gosnold at Cuttyhunk (c. 1858), New Bedford Whaling Museum, New Bedford, MA

Albert Bierstadt - The Marina Piccola, Capri

The Marina Piccola, Capri (1859), Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York

Albert Bierstadt - Indians Spear Fishing - Google Art Project

Indians Spear Fishing, 1862

Looking Down Yosemite-Valley

Looking Down Yosemite Valley (1865), Birmingham Museum of Art, Birmingham, Alabama

Albert Bierstadt - A Storm in the Rocky Mountains, Mt. Rosalie - Google Art Project

Storm in the Rocky Mountains, Mount Rosalie (1866), Brooklyn Museum, New York

Albert Bierstadt - California Spring - Google Art Project

California Spring, 1875, De Young Museum, San Francisco, California

Albert Bierstadt - Light in the Forest

Light in the Forest, unknown date

Sunrise on the Matterhorn MET DT218107

Sunrise on the Matterhorn, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Legacy and honors

  • Because of Bierstadt's interest in mountain landscapes, Mount Bierstadt and Bierstadt Lake in Colorado are named in his honor. Bierstadt was probably the first European to visit the summit of Mount Evans in 1863, 1.5 miles from Mount Bierstadt.[29] Bierstadt named it Mount Rosa, a reference to both Monte Rosa above Zermatt and, Rosalie Ludlow, his future wife, but the name was changed from Rosalie to Evans in 1895 in honor of Colorado governor John Evans.
  • In 1998, the United States Postal Service issued a set of 20 commemorative stamps entitled "Four Centuries of American Art", one of which featured Albert Bierstadt's The Last of the Buffalo.[30] In 2008, the USPS issued a commemorative stamp in its "American Treasures" series featuring Bierstadt's 1864 painting Valley of the Yosemite.[31]
  • William Bliss Baker, another landscape artist, studied under Bierstadt.


  1. ^ "Picturing America's Natural Cathedrals". Retrieved May 20, 2012.
  2. ^ Garraty, John Arthur; Carnes, Mark Christopher; Societies, American Council of Learned (March 29, 1999). "American National Biography: Baker-Blatch". Oxford University Press – via Google Books.
  3. ^ a b c Wikisource-logo.svg Wilson, J. G.; Fiske, J., eds. (1900). "Bierstadt, Albert" . Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography. New York: D. Appleton.
  4. ^ a b "Artist Info".
  5. ^ Mount Corcoran National Gallery of Art, retrieved September 14, 2018
  6. ^  Reynolds, Francis J., ed. (1921). "Bierstadt, Albert" . Collier's New Encyclopedia. New York: P.F. Collier & Son Company.
  7. ^ a b Harvey, Eleanor Jones (2012). The Civil War and American Art. Smithsonian American Art Museum; Metropolitan Museum of Art. Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-18733-5.
  8. ^ "Albert Bierstadt: The Rocky Mountains, Lander's Peak (07.123) – Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History – The Metropolitan Museum of Art".
  9. ^ a b "Among the Sierra Nevada, California by Albert Bierstadt / Exhibition Label". Smithsonian American Art Museum. 2006.
  10. ^ Barringer and Wilton, 250
  11. ^ Wikisource Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Bierstadt, Albert" . Encyclopædia Britannica. 3 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
  12. ^ Howat, John K., editor. American Paradise: The World of the Hudson River School, 284. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1987. ISBN 9780870994975
  13. ^ Glenda Moore (September 9, 2004). "". Retrieved December 19, 2012.
  14. ^ "Albert Bierstadt: The Wolf River, Kansas (61.28) — The Detroit Institute of Arts". Archived from the original on February 23, 2009. Retrieved July 5, 2013.
  15. ^ "Echo Lake, Franconia Mountains, New Hampshire / North American / Art of the Americas / Highlights By Category / Collection Highlights / Collections / Smith College Museum of Art – Smith College Museum of Art". Retrieved July 5, 2013.
  16. ^ "Home / Smith College Museum of Art – Smith College Museum of Art". Retrieved July 5, 2013.
  17. ^ "Cho-looke, the Yosemite Fall, 1864". Timken Museum of Art. Archived from the original on February 21, 2009.
  18. ^ "Valley of the Yosemite". Retrieved May 31, 2014.
  19. ^ "Yosemite Valley".
  20. ^ "In the Sierras". Harvard Art Museums. Retrieved July 5, 2013.
  21. ^ "Among the Sierra Nevada, California". Smithsonian American Art Museum. Archived from the original on June 1, 2014. Retrieved May 31, 2014.
  22. ^ "Puget Sound on the Pacific Coast". Seattle Art Museum. Archived from the original on August 1, 2017. Retrieved July 31, 2017.
  23. ^ "St. Johnsbury Athenaeum>>This Week from the Gallery Archives". Archived from the original on September 27, 2013. Retrieved July 5, 2013.
  24. ^ "Mount Corcoran | Corcoran". Archived from the original on May 18, 2013. Retrieved July 5, 2013.
  25. ^ "The Last of the Buffalo | Corcoran". Archived from the original on May 18, 2013. Retrieved July 5, 2013.
  26. ^ "Alaskan Coast Range". Smithsonian American Art Museum. Archived from the original on May 2, 2014. Retrieved May 31, 2014.
  27. ^ "Valley Fine Art". Valley Fine Art Gallery. Retrieved March 2, 2015.
  28. ^ William Newton Byers, Bierstadt's Visit to Colorado: Sketching for the famous painting Storm in the Rocky Mountains, Magazine of Western History, Vol. XI, No. 3, Jan. 1890; page 237.
  29. ^ "". July 9, 2010. Retrieved May 20, 2012.
  30. ^ "The Postal Store @". March 28, 2011. Retrieved May 20, 2012.

Further reading

  • American paradise: the world of the Hudson River school. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1987. ISBN 9780870994968.
  • Anderson, Nancy K. et al. Albert Bierstadt, Art & Enterprise, Hudson Hills Press, Inc.: New York, New York, 1990.
  • Barringer, Tim and Wilton, Andrew. American Sublime: Landscape Painting in the United States 1820-1880, Princeton University Press, 2002. ISBN 0-691-09670-8
  • Hendricks, Gordon. Albert Bierstadt, Painter of the American West, Harrison House/Harry N. Abrams, Inc.: New York, New York 1988.
  • Miller, Angela. "Albert Bierstadt, Landscape Aesthetics, and the Meanings of the West in the Civil War Era." Art Institute of Chicago Museum Studies 27, no. 1 (Terrain of Freedom: American Art and the Civil War) (2001): 40–59 and 101–102.

External links

A Storm in the Rocky Mountains, Mt. Rosalie

A Storm in the Rocky Mountains, Mt. Rosalie is an 1866 landscape oil painting by German-American painter Albert Bierstadt that was inspired by sketches created on an 1863 expedition.

Bierstadt traveled to the Colorado Rocky Mountains where he was taken up to the Chicago Lakes beneath Mount Evans. The painting is named after Bierstadt's mistress and, at the time, his friend's wife, Rosalie Osborne Ludlow. The painting, measuring at 210.8 × 361.3 cm (83.0 × 142.2 in), is exhibited at the Brooklyn Museum, who acquired it in 1976.

Alaskan Coast Range (painting)

Alaskan Coast Range is an 1889 landscape painting by Albert Bierstadt that presently hangs in the Smithsonian American Art Museum. While traveling through British Columbia, Bierstadt took a steamship to Alaska in search of more rugged landscapes. He ended up shipwrecked in Loring, Alaska. While sheltering in a nearby Native American settlement, he drew his littoral Alaskan surroundings; this work is most likely an oil sketch made for further detailing.

Bierstadt Lake

Bierstadt Lake is located in Larimer County, Colorado and within the Rocky Mountain National Park. Near McHenrys Peak and Longs Peak, there are "spectacular views" of the Continental Divide at the lake. The Bierstadt Lake Trailhead is located about 6.5 miles (10.5 km) from the turn-off at U.S. Route 36 into the Rocky Mountain National Park. During the summer, shuttle buses provide transportation to the trailhead.The lake sits atop a lateral moraine on the side and end of Bartholf Glacier and drains into Mill Creek. It is named for Albert Bierstadt, a noted landscape artist, whose 1870s paintings of Longs Peak and Bierstadt Lake are among the Denver Art Museum's collection.

California Spring (painting)

California Spring is an 1875 oil landscape painting by the Hudson River School artist Albert Bierstadt.

Edward Bierstadt

Edward Bierstadt (1824–1906) was a photographer of portraits and landscapes as well as an engraver in the United States. He opened his own studio in New York City in 1860 and was a brother of the painter Albert Bierstadt, whose artwork he made into engravings. He produced stereoscopic images for Bierstadt Brothers.

Bierstadt was hired by William West Durant to take a series of photos for an advertising brochure entitled The Adirondacks, Artotype Views Among the Mountains and Lakes of the North Woods to publicize Blue Mountain Lake and Raquette Lake in the Adirondacks.

Gordon Hendricks

Gordon Hendricks (1917–1980) was an American art and film historian.

In 1961 Hendricks published The Edison Motion Picture Myth in which he showed that it was not Thomas Alva Edison who should be attributed with the invention of the first device for cinema screenings, but in fact William Kennedy Laurie Dickson. The publication of "Beginnings of the Biograph" followed shortly after in 1964. In 1966, Hendricks published, "The Kinetoscope". These books became milestones in the writing of film history. Hendricks was the first motion picture specialist to lecture in the Sunday series at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He was the first to show motion pictures in the Great Hall at Cooper Union.

In 1975 he authored a work, republished in 2001, about Eadweard Muybridge, in which he called Muybridge the father of the cinema.

He then began a series on books on painters and photographers. He published works about Winslow Homer and Albert Bierstadt. He also published "The Photographs of Thomas Eakins". Thomas Eakins. He has 16 volumes of his writings in the Library of Congress.

At the time of his death, he was engaged in writing a book about the art of Thomas Cole.

After his death Hendricks bequeathed two major collections to the Archives of American Art: one about Thomas Eakins, the other about film history.

Indians in Council, California

Indians in Council, California is an 1872 oil landscape painting by the Hudson River School artist Albert Bierstadt. The painting was made amidst Bierstadt's Yosemite and Sierra Nevada work, while he was residing in California. He felt Native American life was "rapidly passing away", and it was an artist's duty to "tell...their history".

Lander Peak

In 1859 Albert Bierstadt accompanied Frederick W. Lander on a western expedition. On his return he painted a mountain landscape on a large 6-by-10-foot (1.8-by-3.0-meter) canvas, The Rocky Mountains, Lander's Peak . Following the death of General Lander during the Civil War in 1862, Bierstadt named the peak Lander's Peak. The painting was completed in 1863 and sold in 1865 for $25,000.

List of works by Albert Bierstadt

This is a partial list of works by Albert Bierstadt (8 January 1830 – 18 February 1902), who was a German-American painter best known for his landscapes of the American West.

Looking Down Yosemite Valley, California

Looking Down the Yosemite Valley, California is an 1865 painting by the German-American painter Albert Bierstadt (1830-1902).It was Bierstadt’s first large-scale Yosemite picture, a subject for which he would become well known. It presents a view of one of America’s most scenic spots. Based on sketches made during a visit in 1863, Bierstadt paints the valley from a vantage point just above the Merced River, looking due west with the prospect framed by El Capitan on the right, and Sentinel Rock on the left; the spire of Middle Cathedral Rock is visible in the distance.

Mount Bierstadt

Mount Bierstadt is a high mountain summit of the Chicago Peaks in the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains of North America. The 14,065-foot (4,287 m) fourteener is located in the Mount Evans Wilderness of Pike National Forest, 9.4 miles (15.1 km) south by east (bearing 171°) of the Town of Georgetown in Clear Creek County, Colorado, United States. It was named in honor of Albert Bierstadt, the American landscape painter who made the first recorded summit of the mountain in 1863.

Mount Hood (painting)

Mount Hood is an 1869 painting by Albert Bierstadt, and part of the collection of the Portland Art Museum in Portland, Oregon, in the United States.

On the Platte River, Nebraska

On the Platte River, Nebraska is an 1863 oil landscape painting by the Hudson River School artist Albert Bierstadt.

Puget Sound on the Pacific Coast

Puget Sound on the Pacific Coast is an 1870 oil landscape painting by the Hudson River School artist Albert Bierstadt. At the time of the work's completion, Bierstadt had not yet traveled to what was then Washington Territory. The work, commissioned by China trade merchant Abiel Abbot Low, was painted solely by written description of the Sound.

Sunrise on the Matterhorn (Albert Bierstadt)

Sunrise on the Matterhorn is painting by American artist Albert Bierstadt. Done in oil on canvas and depicting the famous Matterhorn, the painting was produced during one of Bierstadt's numerous trips to Switzerland between the years 1867 and 1897. The painting is currently in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The Falls of St. Anthony

The Falls of St. Anthony is an 1880 oil landscape painting by the Hudson River School artist Albert Bierstadt. Rather than depict the falls with the spillway, Bierstadt depicted them as they appeared prior to human interference. The painting depicts in its foreground several Native Americans, and a hatted figure with a walking stick, speculated to be Louis Hennepin, discoverer of the falls.

The Rocky Mountains, Lander's Peak

The Rocky Mountains, Lander's Peak is an 1863 landscape oil painting by the German-American painter Albert Bierstadt. It is based on sketches made during Bierstadt's travels with Frederick W. Lander's Honey Road Survey Party in 1859. The painting shows Lander's Peak in the Wind River Range of the Rocky Mountains, with an encampment of Native Americans in the foreground. It has been compared to, and exhibited with, The Heart of the Andes by Frederic Edwin Church. Lander's Peak immediately became a critical and popular success and sold in 1865 for $25,000.

The Rocky Mountains (painting)

The Rocky Mountains is an 1866 oil on canvas painting by a German-American painter Albert Bierstadt, a painter of Westward Expansion scenes in the latter 19th century. It is a landscape painted in a Luminist style.

Valley of the Yosemite

Valley of the Yosemite (or Valley of the Yo-Semite) is a painting by Albert Bierstadt that was completed in 1864. Initially associated with the Hudson River School, Bierstadt rose to prominence for his paintings of the Rocky Mountains, which established him as one of the best painters of the western American landscape. His later paintings of Yosemite were also received with critical acclaim and public praise.

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