Albert Bierstadt (1830-1902)

A Famous, Nationalist Artist in the History of America

Personal Background of Albert Bierstadt

Bierstadt was born Solingen, Germany, but he moved to a part of American known as New Bedford in Massachusetts when he was only two. However, he returned to Dusseldorf, Germany in 1853, so he could further his education and advance his painting techniques by painting Alpine landscapes. He returned to America in 1857 and took on an overland survey expedition that gave him the opportunity to take pictures and create images of the magnificent mountain ranges and landscapes as he traveled westward. In 1857, the Boston Athenaeum bought one of his works, which benefitted his career. Bierstadt loved mountains and he visited the White Mountains of New Hampshire before he left for Dusseldorf and returned several times between 1853 and 1886. Bierstadt continued to create romantic, appealing landscapes for the rest of his career. In 1867, he married his wife, and they later moved to Nassau, and as a result, Bierstadt began painting the beauty of the tropics. He later settled in California and continued to paint the intriguing scenery of America. Bierstadt continued to be successful up until his death from cancer in 1902, but he regained popularity in the 1960s and his legacy as a nationalist artist remains today.

Bierstadt's Contribution to the Art World

He is still admired for his spectacular landscapes of the unsettled West and parts of America. Bierstadt really contributed to the art world by portraying the West and it's beautifully undeveloped land. He promoted the concept of peace found in nature after the Civil War. He is responsible for creating grandiose, spectacular pictures of places like the Sierra Nevada and the Rocky Mountains that encouraged people to visit these places. Bierstadt was also the first artist to create landscape images with a camera. His oil paintings of American landscapes were very large and offered many characteristics that were popular during 19th century Romanticism and Nationalism. He convinced Americans that their country was destined for prosperity and deserved admiration. Many of his pictures are still featured in art museums today.

How his Work Furthered the fellings of Nationalism

With his intriguing and powerfully glorious landscapes, Bierstadt became increasingly successful at making America appreciate and recognize the potential of their land. Bierstadt made the U.S. seem like a land of promise that was full of opportunities. He encouraged Transcendentalism and promoted the power of nature. He made nature in America seem inviting by the way he created the appearance of pleasant lighting with his small brushstrokes. His work made Americans desire to conquer the wilderness. Bierstadt’s paintings made the audience feel compelled to visit the promising, rural land in America and take pride in the land of their country to ultimately develop America more or witness its beauty. Bierstadt’s paintings pleased Americans, and even the government. His art became a symbol of the national identity and the fruitfulness of American land, which made the theme of Nationalism evident in Bierstadt’s work.

Three of Albert Bierstadt's Famous Works that Serve to Illustrate American Pride

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The Oregon Trail, 1869

Visual Analysis:

Albert Bierstadt created this painting with the intention of making nature appear to be harmonized with humans and their Journey on the Oregon Trail. The audience of this image is most likely Americans, especially to increase their support for nationalism. The bright light shining down on the travelers is a sign of the presence of the Divine. With this image, people can interpret the importance of the Divine and American pride. This image conveys the power of the faith in the mission of settling the land in western America. The American people sought a new beginning with greater advantages and Bierstadt portrayed the beautiful nature that many Americans depended on and journeyed through in this image. Bierstadt wanted to create a tone of peacefulness and beauty for his audience, and he connected Americans to the power of nature and encouraged travel to the West. This particular painting was important for the movement of Manifest Destiny.
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Giant Redwood Trees of California, 1874

Visual Analysis:

This painting was done with the intention of creating a setting that is natural and inviting. Bierstadt's techniques shown in this picture made him such a dominant figure in the informal grouping of romantic painters known as the Hudson River School. Like many of Bierstadt's paintings, this image has similar characteristics of other romantic paintings, such as the transcendental lighting, a bird's eye view of rolling land, minute brushwork, and tranquil American landscapes. This painting is directed towards the American population and even Europeans to highlight the beauty of the country that Americans should take pride in. The Redwood Trees of California were becoming a very popular American landmark after the gold rush in California. This image portrays the tranquility, richness, and promise of California with the gold lightning, which could encourage Americans to seek out prosperity and peace there. The light could also be interpreted as the presence of God in prosperous America, which furthered the country's Nationalism. The vibrant energy of the country shown in this image attracted many immigrants as well.

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The Valley of Yosemite,1868

Visual Analysis:

In this painting, Bierstadt painted a luminous, vast, unspoiled, and resourceful valley of land in order to introduce the beauty of the Yosemite Valley. Once again, the bright light is included in the romantic painting to focus on the powerfully divine and transcendental aspects of landscapes in America. Bierstadt indicates the richness and resourcefulness of some American land. The rock formations surrounding the flat land are distinct and magnificent. The many characteristics of the Yosemite Valley are included by Bierstadt to make the lands of America seem useful, prosperous, and beautiful, which promoted Nationalism and immigration from other nations.