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Albert Bierstadt And The West That America Wanted

How much do you like to plan trips, imagine the places you want to visit and browse for at the photos on the Internet? And now for a moment, imagine that all your friends are going somewhere, or have already left, and even moved there. But you don’t even have a clue how those far lands look like. Well, you actually can get a picture of it, but it will require the entire wall of your home. This was the situation with travelers to the wild west of America in the middle of the 19 century. Instead of photographs, they used to purchase the paintings by artists who had visited distant places and conveyed their impressions to you.Thus Albert Bierstadt, an American landscape painter, originally from Germany, showed the vast expanses of an idealized the west, the rocky mountain scene, giant redwood trees, Nevada falls, wildlife, and local Indians.

He depicted the very realism of that land and his paintings were known as the most realistic pictures of the West. Albert Bierstadt’s paintings served as a kind of trigger for those who were about to make their decision to set off to conquer the West.

His works were admired for a long time, but at the end of the artist’s creative career, his star rolled. But let’s take a look at the life of Albert Bierstadt and make our conclusion whether he was a talented artist or an excellent marketer selling the idea of ​​the Wild West on a state order.

Sierra Nevada

Sierra Nevada

Who was Albert Bierstadt

After giving birth to their child in 1830 in Solingen, the German family immigrated to New Bedford, Massachusetts. In early childhood, he began to show interest in drawing by sketching with pencils.

Being adult enough, Bierstadt had a firm intention to earn a living by painting. So, at the age of 20 years old, he returned to Europe and studied art at the Dusseldorf school. During this time, he improved his skills in painting landscapes of the European Alps.

A few years later, his large-scale landscape, Lake Lucerne, was exhibited in New York.

Lake Lucerne Switzerland

Lake Lucerne Switzerland, 1859


Exploring the West

At 29, the artist went on a research expedition with land surveyor Frederick W. Lander, who worked for the US government. The purpose of the trip was to explore the west and conquer new territories. Making his sketches there, later he turned them into famous vast landscape Albert Bierstadt paintings. So in the spring of 1859, it was his first expedition to the American West. The next six months upon his coming home, he devoted all his efforts to painting. He worked with his sketches and photographs to later display them at the exhibition.

Wild West

Wild West

Bierstadt created idealized landscapes with the grandeur of mountains and the unknown nature of western landscapes and its mountain scenes. The critics consider that the aim was to realize the need for attracting pioneers to explore the territories. But also, among his paintings, one could see dead animals, and herds of huge wild bison, and Indians racing on horses, shooting in pursuit of prey. Behind these scenes, one can read the author’s implicit intention to show the other side of the coin. The West is primarily a wild place, with its own identity and life, there is a lot of danger waiting for romantically inclined Americans, conquerors of the new world. Perhaps, the artist also wanted people to think about the influence they exert on wildlife.

Native Of The Woods

Native Of The Woods

The Last Of The Buffalo

The Last Of The Buffalo


Rich art heritage

Critics believe that his large-scale works were almost equal to his ambitions and self-promotion abilities. Tickets for his exhibitions flew like hotcakes, which was accompanied by advertising and puffery. A series of exhibitions that took place in the 1960s attracted great interest to his canvas. He received many awards in Austria, Bavaria, Belgium, and Germany, and even exhibited his works at a private show for Queen Victoria. In 1860, the National Academy of Design awarded him the title of academician.

During his 30-years creative career, Bierstadt traveled to the West a lot. However, he was not peculiar to the heroism and romanticism of victories. When the civil war began in 1861 and there was conscription for military service, he paid another person to go and take his place in the war. However, this fact did not prevent him from painting military-related paintings.

Guerrilla Warfare

Guerrilla Warfare: Picket Duty in Virginia

In 1863, Bierstadt again went to the West and spent about seven weeks in the Yosemite Valley. His landscapes of the Yosemite Valley gained a huge success among the public.

Yosemite Valley II

Yosemite Valley II

Many researchers of the West wanted Bierstadt to become part of their expedition and capture their exploits. Thus, Albert Bierstadt became the main artist of the time, who created the pictures of the West that America wanted.

Many collectors still consider it an achievement to have his works in their possession.

Bierstadt was a very productive artist throughout his career. His art inheritance counts at least 5 hundred landscapes and about four thousand paintings. Bierstadt’s canvases can be seen in American galleries and even the White House.

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