Albert Bierstadt (1830-1902)
Albert Bierstadt (1830-1902)

Western Landscape

Details
Albert Bierstadt (1830-1902)
Bierstadt, Albert
Western Landscape
signed and dated 'ABierstadt 71' (lower right)
oil on board
17 x 24 in. (44.5 x 61 cm.)

Lot Essay

Albert Bierstadt's dramatic interpretations of the American West are some of the most poignant testimonials to national pride of the nineteenth century. Since that time, his landscapes have been widely sought after by a public that is keenly interested in its vast resources and natural wonders.

A shrewd promoter of his own work, "Bierstadt effectively appropriated the American West, tapping public curiosity and excitement about these remote national territories. This interest was fueled, even during the apprehensive years of the Civil War, by the powerful idea of Manifest Destiny. The prevalent belief that Americans were divinely ordained masters of the continent lent special significance to Bierstadt's choice of subjects." (L.S. Ferber in Albert Bierstadt: Art and Enterprise, Brooklyn, New York, 1990, p. 25)

In as early as 1859, Bierstadt visited the American West, an extremely rugged territory at the time. By 1863, he made his second extended Western trip, with writer Fitz Hugh Ludlow. "Ludlow's narratives of the trip were widely circulated, and these highly descriptive texts proved to be among the most effective vehicles in firmly establishing Bierstadt of the preeminent artist-interpreter of the western landscape in the 1860s. His domination of the subject matter was such that a reviewer of the 1868 Annual Exhibition at the National Academy of Design, appreciating the alternative vision of a Rocky Mountain scene by Whittredge, could lament in jest that Bierstadt had already 'copyrighted nearly all of the principle mountains.'" (Albert Bierstadt: Art and Enterprise, p. 26)

Having returned to the East Coast, but unable to restrain his yearning for adventure, "In the spring of 1871, Bierstadt began making plans for another western expedition in the United States. He had been in Washington, DC, in May; and in July he wrote General Sherman requesting letters of introduction to commanders of posts on the plains." (R.S. Trump, Life and Works of Albert Bierstadt, unpublished dissertation, Ohio State University, 1964, pp. 162)

In this subtly illuminated depiction of the American West, Bierstadt captures the drama and beauty of the American landscape that he had been successfully publicizing for years. Indeed, he was so deft at advancing his own work and "he had more studies of fine and novel scenery than any other artist in this country, and he knew how to use them in the most effective style. It soon became fashionable for a gentleman of means, who were founding or enlarging their private galleries, to give Mr. Bierstadt an order for a Rocky Mountain landscape, and during at least ten years the artist's income from that source was princely." (Albert Bierstadt: Art and Enterprise, p. 26)
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