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An Icon of American Romanticism


Jared Lipton                            Honors Art History

Albert Bierstadt

                   1830 - 1902 

This booklet will focus on the life and works of Albert Bierstadt, and in doing so will discuss his impact and role in the Romantic art movement in the 19th century. In par with this movement, his works concentrate on natural aspects of human life and our relation with nature, a key feature of Romanticism. I chose Bierstadt due to his beautiful portrayals of the American frontier, and since I personally have a deep love for nature, especially out west, his paintings truly connected with me. 

     Albert Bierstadt was born in Solingen, Prussia (now Germany) on January 7, 1830. At just two years old his family brought him to New Bedford, MA. Growing up, he knew that he wanted to study art, and returned to Germany in 1853 to study art in Dusseldorf. While in Germany, he painted alpine landscapes which was cited to have improved his technical painting abilities. Bierstadt returned to America in 1857, and joined a westward overland survey expedition, allowing him to travel the country and observe and paint its natural beauty. Due to the uniqueness of Bierstadt's works, and his raw, romanticized depictions of the American West with lighting and detail, his paintings carried him to the top of the American art market with great success and recognition.

     In 1867 Albert Bierstadt married his wife, Rosalie, and the two moved to London. Due to health reasons, Rosalie needed to live in a warm climate, so the two moved to Nassau, leading to Bierstadt painting the tropics there. Through his life, Bierstadt was known as a member of the Hudson River School and the National Academy of Art. Bierstadt ultimately died in 1902.


Biography

Bierstadt was known for his remarkable, sweeping images of natural landscapes, usually of mountain ranges or rock formations and often with water and other trees and natural features. Most of his works feature bright, potent light throughout the painting. Some have even referred to this presence of vibrant light as "luminism." His main medium used in his paintings was oil on canvas. His striking lines and detailed figures present the nature in a very compelling, grandiose way. As of a result of his highly evident awe of the American frontier and the beautiful nature present, his inspiring, gorgeous portrayals of this nature represent the Romanticism movement greatly. 

Bierstadt's Style

Bierstadt primarily worked as a Romantic painter. Romanticism in that time was the reflection on the natural aspects and beauty of life, contrasting the daunting Industrial Revolution in that same period.

BIERSTADT'S FAMOUS WORKS

Among the Sierra Nevada, California

1868

Oil on Canvas

Smithsonian American Art Museum


Giant Redwood Trees of California

1874

Oil on Canvas

Berkshire Museum, Pittsfield, MA

Puget Sound on the Pacific Coast

1870

Oil on Canvas

Seattle Art Museum

Valley of the Yosemite

1864

Oil on Paperboard

Boston Museum of Fine Arts

Kern's River Valley, California

1871

Oil on Canvas

Private Collection

Sierra Nevada

1871-1873

Oil on Canvas

Reynolda House Museum of American Art

PERSONAL FAVORITES

My personal favorite Bierstadt pieces are "Sierra Nevada" and "Giant Redwood Trees of California."

I like Bierstadt's "Sierra Nevada" because of the sheer beauty presented in the natural scene of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The way he presents the mountains in relation to the already large trees or small deer shown almost seems larger than life, which is breathtaking. The soft gray of the mountains and clouds contrasts greatly with the bright green of the trees and striking blue water. Personally, I love this painting as it reminds me of my own times in the Sierra Nevada mountains and gives me great and beautiful nostalgia.

I like Bierstadt's "Giant Redwood Trees of California" as it demonstrates a somewhat different side of his excellent color usage. Whereas the Sierra Nevada piece utilized much more blue and colder colors, this painting shows a much warmer color scheme, with a warmer tone overall. Just like the other piece, the larger than life feel of this natural scene makes the audience consider it to be almost magical, which really interests me. Similarly, just like the other painting, when viewing "Giant Redwood Trees of California" I am reminded of my times viewing a scene just like this, allowing me to experience great emotion in the beauty of the nature. In both paintings, the bright light and color, and beautiful presentation of nature demonstrate the Romantic movement greatly.