The notion of the "primal vision" is one brought up by Diane P. Fischer in an analysis of the paintings of Albert Bierstadt, one of America's most prominent landscape painters. Fischer describes "primal visions" as "landscapes depicted as if they were never before seen by human eyes. Indeed, Bierstadt was a master at presenting himself, and by extension, all European-Americans, as the initial witnesses to some of America's most spectacular vistas. This, of course, is fictitious, as the land had already bee settled for millennia by Native Americans. Nonetheless, Bierstadt's posture coincides with the prevailing notion of Manifest Destiny in nineteenth-century America, which posited that individuals of European ancestry had a God-given right to inherit the North American continent." ("The Story of the Plainfield Bierstadts," in Primal Visions: Albert Bierstadt "Discovers" America, Montclair, NJ, 2001, pp. 11-12)
In the present work, Bierstadt demonstrates his skill at capturing atmospheric effects of light and his ability to give nature a luminous glow. A peak from the Wasatch Range in Utah rises with grandeur above the valley, and glows in what appears to be a raking early morning sunlight, the shadows long and dark. A hint of a waterfall is evident at lower left where the creek disappears over the edge in a fine, illuminated white mist. Bierstadt memorializes his distinct, enthusiastic vision of America in Wasatch Mountains.