American painter Albert Bierstadt

  Albert Bierstadt American painter   

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                        Albert Bierstadt was an American painter of German birth.  His career spanned the entire second half of the 19th century, and emerged as the first technically sophisticated artist to travel to the Far West of America (Turner, 43).  On this trip, he recorded his experiences through sketches and stereoscopic photographs of Indians, emigrants and members of the survey party.  It was his many sketches and photographs made throughout his several trips to the West that Bierstadt used to create his paintings.  Unlike many artists who are discovered after their death, Bierstadt achieved his dream of fame while in the prime of his painting.  His paintings were purchased by the wealthy and titled, thus enabling him to live very comfortably.

            Valley of the Yosemite by Albert Bierstadt is a beautiful landscape painting in which light, color, an utmost attention to detail, and strong lines all come together to compliment the composition.  Bierstadt captures the Yosemite Valley much in the same naturalistic style as photographer Ansel Adams, the major difference being Bierstadt’s use of color versus using high contrast black and white values.

            Light is the most important aspect in this landscape.  The sunlight slowly creeps up from behind the cliffs, and gracefully dances along the countryside illuminating the early morning scene.  This sunlight is made of warm colors, and creates the feeling of a warm summer’s morning, burning through the early morning haze, to clear the air as the local

wildlife is just waking up.  The light continues to lightly touch the clouds, exposing their contours, and pushing them out of the area to make way for the new day.

            Bierstadt’s attention to detail is very impressive.  The contours of

the clouds, the jagged rock face, the glistening of the water, the leaves on the trees all done with very small brushstrokes.  A great sense of depth is established through contrast, overlapping and atmospheric perspective.  The closest rock faces are low in value as they are being deprived of the sunlight.  As the curve of the valley disappears, so does the high value of the farthest visible rock face, as it tucks itself behind the middle ground.  Depth is also achieved by the long “S” curves of the river which grow closer together and quickly disappear, but can still be followed in the imagination.  The use of atmospheric perspective is successful in the piece.  As the landscape gets further away, objects become less detailed, and even fade away into the morning fog.

The composition as a whole is very stable, with strong vertical lines outlining the forms of the towering rock faces, and a symmetrical organization.  The diagonal lines build a triangular form out of the rock cliffs, furthermore establishing the stability.  This gives the landscape a monumental quality, yet it still captures one of nature’s most peaceful and gentle moments.

            Being a late romanticist artist, Bierstadt became internationally

renowned for his beautiful and enormous paintings of the newly accessible American west. His works found their way into public and private collections at stunningly high prices for his time.  His popularity

and wealth rose to tremendous heights only to fade as the interest in impressionism turned public taste away from his highly detailed landscapes.


Turner, Jane, ed.  The Dictionary of Art.  New York: Macmillan,                             1996.

            Hendricks, Gordon.  Albert Bierstadt:  Painter of the American West.                     New York: Harrison House/Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1988.

            Copy of Painting retrieved from:

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