- Russ Ramsey
Meet Albert Bierstadt
For today’s Art Wednesday, let’s spend some time getting to know the German-American landscape painter Albert Bierstadt. I found Bierstadt through a friend who has a special attachment to a one of his particular works, and then earlier this year got to see one of his works in person at the Birmingham Art Museum. This is how we often find art—through friends talking about what they love, and then following up on names and images that catch our curiosity. So stay curious. There’s lots of great stuff to find out there.
Albert Bierstadt, Looking Down Yosemite Valley, California (1865)
Albert Bierstadt was born in Germany in 1830, and his parents immigrated to New Bedford, MA, in 1831. He developed a skill for drawing with crayons at an early age, and in 1851, at the age of 21, took up oil painting.
Albert Bierstadt, Storm in the Mountains, c. 1870
Bierstadt became part of the Hudson River School of painters—an association of like-minded American landscape painters from the northeast in the late 1800’s. Their works tended to focus on development and expansion.
Albert Bierstadt, Storm in the Rocky Mountains, Mount Rosalie (1866)
Bierstadt was especially fond of the American west, painting the mountains from Colorado to California. Mt. Corcoran (below) is situated in the high Sierra Nevada range between Sequoia National Park and the John Muir Wilderness Area.
Albert Bierstadt, Mount Corcoran, c. 1876–77
Albert Bierstadt, Yosemite Valley, Yosemite Park, c. 1868
To achieve paintings of the Rocky Mountains, Bierstadt joined several westward expansion caravans, which were highly dangerous expeditions. Imagine him loading his equipment into a wagon and traversing hundreds of unsettled country for weeks on end.
Albert Bierstadt, The Rocky Mountains, Lander's Peak (1863)
Bierstadt wasn’t the first artist to paint the western American mountains, but he was the most prominent, earning him honors not only in in the US, but in other nations—Austria, Bavaria, Belgium, Germany—curious to see this new world.
Albert Bierstadt, Estes Park, Long's Peak, 1877
Albert Bierstadt, Valley of the Yosemite, 1864
I’m just beginning to learn about Albert Bierstadt and the Hudson River School, but I’m already fascinated and eager to learn more about the stories and art that comes from this band of painters.