Albert Bierstadt (1830-1902)
On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more The Collection of Peggy and David Rockefeller
Albert Bierstadt (1830-1902)


Albert Bierstadt (1830-1902)
signed with conjoined initials 'ABierstadt' (lower left)--signed again (on the panel backing)
oil on canvas
17 ¾ x 25 5/8 in. (45.1 x 65.1 cm.)
Painted circa 1883.
Private collection, Atlanta, Georgia.
Alexander Gallery, New York.
Acquired by the late owner from the above, 2011.
W. Adelson, et al., The David and Peggy Rockefeller Collection: Supplement, vol. V, New York, 2015, pp. 57-59, no. 13, illustrated.
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Lot Essay

In an age when public curiosity fueled interest in the unknown and the concept of Manifest Destiny swept the nation, Albert Bierstadt’s primary motivation was to transcribe the glorious and unblemished world that he witnessed. Bierstadt’s first Arctic scenes date from a June 1883 transatlantic voyage he made with his wife, Rosalie, aboard the steamship Britannic. One year later, the artist and his wife embarked on another similar journey, albeit aboard the steamship Gallia. These trips afforded Bierstadt the opportunity to examine and document the inhospitable waters of the region, and the studies formed the basis of his later studio compositions.

The Arctic travels of fellow artists Frederic Church and William Bradford may have been the inspiration for Bierstadt to embark on these journeys and his resulting body of work. Gerald Carr notes, “Although Bierstadt’s rival Frederic E. Church was the first to depict icebergs on a grand scale (The Icebergs, 1861, Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, Texas), another artist, William Bradford, should have been more influential in alerting Bierstadt to such subjects. From the late 1860’s through the early 1880’s, Bradford, a close friend and co-occupant of Bierstadt’s New York studio and a fellow exhibitor at New York clubs, was artistically identified with arctic scenes.” (Albert Bierstadt: An Exhibition of Forty Paintings, exhibition catalogue, New York, 1983)

In Icebergs, Bierstadt renders a stunningly beautiful scene conveying the raw power of nature and the artist’s visceral response to the Arctic region. A group of men in a fully occupied tender venture across the tranquil waters towards a looming iceberg, another boat trailing behind. Enveloped in the subtle, orange-pinkish glow of a setting sun, the fading light suffuses the composition and illuminates both the water and the iceberg. Simultaneously, dramatic shadows reveal a sublime tonal shift. With the colossal iceberg looming in the distance, the men appear diminutive in the face of nature’s glory.

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