Although known for his tropical views of Central and South America, Lake Tahoe is a rare and magnificent example of Norton Bush's California landscape painting. Completed in 1869, this work combines Bush's early influence of the Hudson River School with a certain naivet frequently found in early Western American art.
Born in Rochester, New York in 1834, Bush obtained his first artistic instruction from Jasper Cropsey, and also became an acquaintance of Frederick Church. These artists were a strong influence on Bush in the methods of the Hudson River School of painting, which he practiced throughout his prolific artistic career.
In 1853, Bush set out for the West Coast, traveling through the isthmus of Panama and arriving in San Francisco. He set up a studio where he quickly gained prominence for his landscape paintings, and is considered to be one of the earliest professional landscape painters on the West Coast. Throughout his years in California, Bush made several trips to the Sierra Nevada Mountains, where he painted this spectacular view of Lake Tahoe in 1869. This dramatic scene displays a wide perspective of the high, snow-capped Sierra Nevadas surrounding Lake Tahoe. In this composition, Bush depicts a frontiersman and his loyal dog resting along the shore near enormous boulders, jutting out from the landscape. In the distance boat sails dot the glass-like surface of the lake. Through this traditional Hudson River School method, Bush juxtaposes man against the vast and remarkable wilderness. He evokes the spiritual qualities of nature, and the joys and responsibilities derived from inhabiting and preserving this beautiful Earth.