ALBERT BIERSTADT (1830-1902)
ALBERT BIERSTADT (1830-1902)
ALBERT BIERSTADT (1830-1902)
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ALBERT BIERSTADT (1830-1902)
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ALBERT BIERSTADT (1830-1902)

South Dome, Yosemite Valley, California

Details
ALBERT BIERSTADT (1830-1902)
South Dome, Yosemite Valley, California
signed with conjoined initials ‘ABierstadt’ (lower right)—inscribed with title and ‘Rosalie Bierstadt’ and dated ‘May 1867’ (on the reverse prior to lining)
oil on paper laid down on canvas
26 x 19 in. (66 x 48.3 cm.)
Painted circa 1863-67.
Provenance
The artist.
Rosalie Bierstadt, wife of the above, gift from the above, 1867.
The Manoogian Collection, Taylor, Michigan, by 1990.
Private collection, Carmel, California.
Acquired by the present owner from the above, circa 1991.
Literature
N.K. Anderson, L.S. Ferber, Albert Bierstadt: Art and Enterprise, exhibition catalogue, New York, 1990, p. 91, fig. 59, illustrated (as Study for “The Domes of Yosemite”).
L. Mayers, G. Myers, “Bierstadt and Other 19th-Century American Painters in Context,” Journal of the American Institute for Conservation, vol. 38, no. 1, Spring 1999, pp. 60-61.
Further Details
We would like to thank Melissa Webster Speidel, President of the Bierstadt Foundation and Director of the Albert Bierstadt catalogue raisonné project, for her assistance in the cataloguing of this lot. This work is included in the database being compiled for her forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the artist's work.

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Tylee Abbott Vice President, Head of American Art

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Lot Essay

Albert Bierstadt first traveled West as early as 1859, yet it was his 1863 journey overland to California that provided him the inspiration for many of his most successful paintings, including the present work. The artist ventured to Yosemite from San Francisco via the Mariposa Grove of giant Sequoias, camping and sketching for seven weeks. The oil on paper studies he completed to document the trip would inspire several major paintings during his following years in New York before traveling back West in 1871. According to Melissa Webster Speidel, President of the Bierstadt Foundation and Director of the Albert Bierstadt catalogue raisonné project, South Dome, Yosemite Valley, California may date as early as 1863, placing this painting among the celebrated works from this important first trip by Bierstadt to Yosemite.

South Dome, Yosemite Valley, California exhibits a particularly high level of immersive detail among the oil on paper depictions Bierstadt created of Yosemite. Two inches taller than his typical sheet size of 24 x 20 inches, the 26-inch vertical composition underscores the almost unbelievably steep hillsides of the Yosemite Valley and also allows the artist to delight in painting the clouds floating across the bright blue sky. Writing of the present work as part of a technical analysis of Bierstadt’s paintings for the Journal of the American Institute for Conservation, conservators Lance Mayer and Gay Myers describe, “compared to many other studies, it is much more finished; every part of the paper is covered with paint, and it can be seen as an independent completed painting on its own. The very careful application of paint is more similar to the handling of paint that Bierstadt used in his larger finished paintings than to some of his quicker, sketchier studies.” (“Bierstadt and Other 19th-Century American Painters in Context,” JAIC, 1999, vol. 38, no. 1)

Additionally, whereas many works of this type have lost any original artist notations, the present work notably retains documentation of the artist’s writing on the reverse - ‘South Dome, Yosemite Valley, Cala.’ to record the location, as well as an inscription to his wife ‘Rosalie O. Bierstadt/May 1867.’ Mayer and Myers explain, “Albert Bierstadt was probably not actually in Yosemite in the spring of 1867. If the inscription marks the date that the painting was given to his wife, the painting could be a very detailed study made earlier on-site, as opposed to a studio production made after the artist returned to New York.” (“Bierstadt and Other 19th-Century American Painters in Context”) This interpretation of the inscription therefore supports the work’s dating to as early as his first Yosemite trip in 1863.

Combining the feeling of a freshly discovered observation of nature with the close detail and high finish of Bierstadt’s best easel paintings, South Dome, Yosemite Valley, California exemplifies the powerful pull the artist inspired in his contemporaries to explore and appreciate the wonders of the West. Each notch and groove in the mountains is outlined and highlighted with exquisite attention, transporting even viewers of today to enjoy the untouched beauty of Yosemite alongside the artist. In fact, Mark Twain described a related work and one of Bierstadt’s largest paintings—The Domes of the Yosemite, 1867, St. Johnsbury Athenaeum, Vermont—as “very beautiful, considerably more beautiful than the original.” (as quoted in N.K. Anderson, Albert Bierstadt: Art and Enterprise, New York, 1991, p. 91)

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