Albert Bierstadt by Napoleon Sarony
January 7, 1830|
Solingen, Rhine Province, Prussia
|Died||February 18, 1902
New York City, New York
|Movement||Hudson River School|
|Influenced||William Bliss Baker|
Albert Bierstadt (January 7, 1830 – February 18, 1902) was a German-American painter best known for his lavish, sweeping landscapes of the American West. In obtaining the subject matter for these works, 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.
Bierstadt was part of the Hudson River School, not an institution but rather an informal group of like-minded painters. The Hudson River School style involved 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.
Bierstadt was born in Solingen, Germany. His family moved to New Bedford, Massachusetts, in 1831. He developed a taste for art early and made clever crayon sketches in his youth. In 1851, he began to paint in oils. He studied painting with the members of the Düsseldorf school of painting in Düsseldorf from 1853 to 1857. He taught drawing and painting briefly before devoting himself to painting.
Bierstadt began making paintings in New England and upstate New York. In 1859, he traveled westward in the company of Frederick W. Lander, a land surveyor for the U.S. government, returning with sketches that would result in numerous finished paintings. In 1863 he returned west again, in the company of the author Fitz Hugh Ludlow, whose wife he would later marry. He continued to visit the American West throughout his career.
During the American Civil War, Bierstadt paid for a substitute to serve in his place when he was drafted in 1863. He did complete one Civil War painting Guerilla Warfare, Civil War in 1862, based on his brief experiences with soldiers stationed at Camp Cameron in 1861. Bierstadt's painting was based on a stereo photograph taken by his brother Edward Bierstadt, who operated a photography studio at Langley's Tavern in Virginia. Bierstadt's painting received a positive review when it was exhibited at the Brooklyn Art Association at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in December 1861, however, Curator Eleanor Jones Harvey observes that Bierstadt's 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 
Though his paintings sold for princely sums, Bierstadt was not held in particularly high esteem by critics of his day. His use of uncommonly large canvases was thought to be an egotistical indulgence, as his paintings would invariably dwarf those of his contemporaries when they were displayed together. The romanticism evident in his choices of subject and in his use of light was felt to be excessive by contemporary critics. His paintings emphasized atmospheric elements like fog, clouds and mist to accentuate and complement the feel of his work. Bierstadt sometimes changed details of the landscape to inspire awe. The colors he used are also not always true. He painted what he believed was the way things should be: water is ultramarine, vegetation is lush and green, etc.
Nonetheless, in 1860 he was elected a member of the National Academy; he received medals in Austria, Bavaria, Belgium, and Germany; and his paintings remain popular. He was a prolific artist, having completed over 500 (possibly as many as 4000) paintings during his lifetime, most of which have survived. Many are scattered through museums around the United States. Prints are available commercially for many. Original paintings themselves do occasionally come up for sale, at ever increasing prices.
Existing work 
- 1855 - The Old Mill
- 1855 - The Portico of Octavia
- 1855 - Westphalia
- 1855 - Westphalian Landscape
- 1857 - Fishing Boats at Capri
- 1857 - The Wetterhorn
- 1858 - Lake Lucerne Switzerland
- 1858 - Rocca de Secca
- 1859 - Bernese Alps
- 1859 - The Wolf River, Kansas, c. 1859, oil on canvas, Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, MI
- 1860 - Harbor Scene, c. 1860–69
- 1861 - Echo Lake, Franconia Mountains, NH, Smith College Museum of Art, Smith College, Northampton, MA
- 1862 - The Fishing Fleet
- 1862 - Guerilla Warfare, Civil War, oil on panel, The Century Association, NY
- 1863 - The Rocky Mountains, Lander's Peak, oil on canvas, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, NY
- 1864 - Cho-looke, the Yosemite Fall, oil on canvas, Timken Museum of Art, San Diego, CA
- 1864 - Valley of the Yosemite, oil on paper, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA
- 1865 - Looking Down Yosemite Valley, California, Birmingham Museum of Art, Birmingham, AL
- 1865 - Staubbach Falls, Near Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland, oil on canvas
- 1866 - A Storm in the Rocky Mountains, Mt. Rosalie, oil on canvas, Brooklyn Museum, New York City, New York
- 1868 - In the Sierras, Fogg Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA
- 1868 - Among the Sierra Nevada, California, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.
- 1868 - Tyrolean Landscape
- 1868 - Yosemite Valley, Yosemite Park, c. 1868, Oakland Museum, Oakland, CA
- 1869 - Oregon Trail, Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, OH
- 1870 - Puget Sound on the Pacific Coast, Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, WA
- 1870 - San Francisco Bay, 1871-1873, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.
- 1870 - Passing Storm over the Sierra Nevadas, c. 1870, San Antonio Museum of Art
- 1870 - Storm in the Mountains, c. 1870, oil on canvas, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA
- 1870 - The Emerald Pool, New Hampshire, c. 1870, Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, VA
- 1871 - Domes of Yosemite, c. 1871, St. Johnsbury Athenaeum, St. Johnsbury, VT
- 1872 - Indians in Council, California, c. 1872, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.
- 1872 - Cathedral Rocks, Yosemite Valley, c. 1872, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.
- 1872 - Sunrise in the Sierras, c. 1872, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.
- 1873 - Mount Tamalpais, c. 1873, Parthenon, Nashville, TN
- 1875 - Hetch Hetchy Canyon, c. 1875, Mount Holyoke College Art Museum, South Hadley, MA
- 1876 - Mount Corcoran, c. 1876–77, oil on canvas, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
- 1880 - The Falls of St Anthony, c. 1880, Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid
- 1882 - Gates of the Yosemite, c. 1882, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.
- 1886 - Indian Canoe, c. 1886, Blanton Museum of Art, Austin, TX
- 1887 - Farallon Island, c. 1887, Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, PA
- 1888 - The Last of the Buffalo, oil on canvas, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
- 1889 - Alaskan Coast Range, c. 1889, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.
- 1895 - The Morteratsch Glacier Upper Engadine Valley - Pontresina
- Several pieces at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA
- A Rustic Mill
- Among the Bernese Alps
- Bavarian Landscape
- Sierra Nevada Morning, Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa, OK
- Sierra Nevada, Reynolda House Museum of American Art, Winston-Salem, NC
- Sioux Village at Ft. Laramie, Blanton Museum of Art, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX
- The Matterhorn, Mabee-Gerrer Museum of Art, Shawnee, OK
- The Rhone Valley
- The Story and Prophecy
- View of the Grindelwald
- Sketchbook of American Journey, artist's sketchbook/journal, Mabee-Gerrer Museum of Art, Shawnee, OK
Selected paintings 
Among the Sierra Nevada Mountains, California, (1868), Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC.
San Francisco Bay, (1871-1873), Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC.
Storm in the Rocky Mountains, Mount Rosalie, 1866, Brooklyn Museum, New York
- 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. 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. In 2008, the USPS issued a commemorative stamp in its "American Treasures" series featuring Bierstadt's 1864 painting Valley of the Yosemite.
- Valley of the Yosemite also appears in a scene in Terry Gilliam's 1995 film Twelve Monkeys, accompanied by several doctors singing Blueberry Hill (song).
- William Bliss Baker, another landscape artist, studied under Bierstadt.
See also 
- List of Hudson River School artists
- List of works by Albert Bierstadt
- Edward Bierstadt
- History of painting
- Western painting
- "Picturing America's Natural Cathedrals". Tfaoi.com. Retrieved 2012-05-20.
- Wilson, James Grant; Fiske, John, eds. (1900). "Bierstadt, Albert". Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography. New York: D. Appleton.
- Harvey, Eleanor Jones; Smithsonian American Art Museum, N.Y.) Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York (2012). The Civil War and American art. ISBN 978-0-300-18733-5.
- "Albert Bierstadt Images". Images.google.com. Retrieved 2012-05-20.
- "Bierstadt, Albert". Collier's New Encyclopedia. 1921.
- Glenda Moore (2004-09-09). "xmission.com". xmission.com. Retrieved 2012-12-19.
- 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.
- "ArtOnStamps.org". ArtOnStamps.org. 2010-07-09. Retrieved 2012-05-20.
- "The Postal Store @ USPS.com". Shop.usps.com. 2011-03-28. Retrieved 2012-05-20.
- "image of Valley of the Yosemite". Retrieved 2012-12-19.
- Twelve Monkeys trivia page at IMDB
Further reading 
- Anderson, Nancy K. et al. Albert Bierstadt, Art & Enterprise, Hudson Hills Press, Inc.: New York, New York, 1990.
- Hendricks, Gordon. Albert Bierstadt, Painter of the American West, Harrison House/Harry N. Abrams, Inc.: New York, New York 1988.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Albert Bierstadt|
- White Mountain paintings by Albert Bierstadt
- Museum of Nebraska Art MONA Moment
- Gallery of Bierstadt's Paintings
- The Winterthur Library Overview of an archival collection on Albert Bierstadt.
- Albert Bierstadt Paintings Gallery 345 images online
- The R.W. Norton Art Gallery: Albert Bierstadt's Biography