Bierstadt was a German-born American painter best known for his dramatic landscapes of the American West. To paint the scenes, Bierstadt joined several journeys of the Westward Expansion. Though not the first artist to record these sites, Bierstadt was the foremost painter of these scenes for the remainder of the 19th century.
Born in Germany, Bierstadt was brought to the United States at the age of one by his parents. He later returned to study painting for several years in Düsseldorf. He became part of the Hudson River School in New York, an informal group of like-minded painters who started painting along this scenic river. Their style was based on carefully detailed paintings with romantic, almost glowing lighting, sometimes called luminism. An important interpreter of the western landscape, Bierstadt, along with Thomas Moran, is also grouped with the Rocky Mountain School.
Albert Bierstadt | Among the Sierra Nevada Mountains, California
Hudson River artists used the landscape genre as an allegorical
vehicle to address moral and spiritual concerns. Albert Bierstadt
(1830–1902) traveled west in 1858 and produced many paintings
depicting the Rocky Mountains, Yosemite Valley, and other dramatic
locales. These works, such as Among
the Sierra Nevada Mountains, California,
present breathtaking scenery and natural beauty. This panoramic view
(the painting is 10 feet wide) is awe-inspiring. To underscore the
almost transcendental nature of this scene, Bierstadt depicted the
sun’s rays breaking through the clouds overhead, which suggests a
heavenly consecration of the land. That Bierstadt’s focus was the
American West is not insignificant. By calling national attention to
the splendor and uniqueness of the regions
beyond the Rocky Mountains, Bierstadt’s paintings reinforced the
idea of Manifest Destiny.