Monday, June 2, 2014

Albert Bierstadt (1830-1902) – Painter of the American West

Albert Bierstadt was among the most internationally honored American artists of the nineteenth century. Born in Solingen, Germany, he emigrated at age two to America with his parents and his two brothers. The family settled in New Bedford, Massachusetts, where his father became established as a barrel maker. He studied (1853-57) painting in Dusseldorf, Germany, and Rome and traveled extensively on the Continent. Although he had entered that period of formal training with only rudimentary capabilities, he emerged from it an ambitious, technically proficient master whose tastes for European scenery and society had been considerably enhanced in the process.

In 1858, he joined the expedition of Colonel F. W. Landers to survey an overland wagon route to the Far West. This trip to the west including the territories of Colorado and Wyoming was to procure sketches for a series of large-scale landscape paintings of the American West. Back in New York, he painted a sequence of canvases that secured his reputation as a "western" artist. He made two additional western journeys, one in 1863, the other from 1871 to 1873.

The Rocky Mountains

Bierstadt was part of the Hudson River School, a group of like-minded painters whose style involved carefully detailed paintings with romantic, almost glowing lighting, sometimes called luminism.

Bierstadt painted the West as one who loves its beauty. His paintings evoke romantic images and stir feelings in us even if we have lived our lives in the American West.

As you read the western historical romances I've reviewed and those on my "best list" I'll post toward the end of June, picture the west as Bierstadt saw it: A place of great majestic open spaces and colors more beautiful than any many could create on his own.

Yosemite Valley

The Last of the Buffalo

The Oregon Trail


  1. I did some research on Bierstadt many years ago while trying to select one of his prints for my office. I was dismayed to find that many art critics chastised him for idealizing his scenes.
    To me they're filled with power & majesty and I love them.

    1. I agree, Jeff. He painted what the soul saw not just the camera. And because of it, today we get the feeling of his era. I just love them. He is my favorite.