When we mention 19th century Luminism, barely any other artist is a better representation than Albert Bierstadt. For those who don’t know him, Albert Bierstadt is a German-American artist who lived between 1830 and 1902, creating paintings depicting nature’s raw beauty through magnificent illumination.
However, this isn’t the primary thing Albert Bienrdstadt’s art is known for. He was one of the pioneers of the Hudson River School movement, a group of painters that captured the beauty of the American natural landscape across the Hudson River valley. In addition, the movement created paintings on romanticism and the Sublime in Art style, helping to give even deeper meaning to them.
With a combination of all these styles, Albert Bierstadt’s paintings are some of the most revered works from American visual literature. We intend to present you with the most famous of all these while entertaining you with the stories behind each piece. So open your mind up as we dive in.
The Rocky Mountains, Lander’s Park, 1863
Produced from sketches and pictures created on one of his Honey Road Survey party trips, The Rocky Mountains is one of the most popular Albert Bierstadt paintings that place him high above other 19th-century American landscape painters.
Albert Bierstadt – The Rocky Mountains, Lander’s Peak
Depicting Native Americans in the foreground and divinely illuminated mountainscapes in the background, the art piece showcases all that Albert Bierstadt’s art represents. But, as he wrote, “…the Indians are still as they were hundreds of years ago, and now is the time to paint them, for they are rapidly passing away”.
Romanticism and luminism are embodied by the altered luminance of the waterfall and sky. At the same time, the minute and somewhat mystic images of Native Americans bring the Sublime in Art style out. The oil in canvas painting sold for $25,000 in 1865, equivalent to over $450,000 today.
The Domes of the Yosemite, 1867
Created on a $25,000-commision for Legrand Lockwood, an 1867 New York-based banker, the Domes of the Yosemite presents a stunning view of the Yosemite valley. We see the peaks of cliffs and water bodies on the ground and in the sky illuminated by the sun’s radiance.
This is Albert Bierstadt’s largest painting, created from sketches and pictures taken on his second expedition to the West. It is inspired by his successful push for the U.S government to conserve this uncultivated landscape as regular and business-oriented settlers began to build structures on it.
Albert Bierstadt – The Domes of Yosemite 1867
From the all-encompassing words of Fitz Hugh Ludlow, an author that accompanied Albert Bierstadt on this journey, “…Never were words so beggared for an abridged translation of any Scripture of Nature”. In 1882, a viewing platform was erected at the exact spot where the two caught sight of this magnificent view, further adding to its significance.
The Emerald Pool,1870
Albert Bierstadt’s painter friends are considered his best work yet and identified by the artist himself as his most difficult painting to make. The Emerald pool shows us a scenic view of the Peabody River in New Hampshire.
The painting was created from sketches of the river between 1852 and 1869, which were made on his frequent visits to his brother, Edward Bierstadt. Edward was a photographer whose works bolstered tourism to the area.
Albert Bierstadt – The Emerald Pool
Like others, The Emerald Pool romantically depicts the utter wildness and largeness of uncultivated American land, with waterfalls and a healthy forest showcasing the beauty that must be preserved. It is one of the paintings on our list that showcases the style of the Hudson River School movement the most.
Puget Sound on the Pacific Coast, 1870
Puget Sound on the Pacific Coast is one of Albert Bierstadt’s works that can be called an outlier. Why? Before this gloomy and enticing piece was finished, he hadn’t even had a glimpse of the landscape.
The painting, commissioned by a Chinese entrepreneur, Abiel Abbot Low, was created entirely from textual descriptions of Puget Sound, the sound of the Pacific West in coastal areas of Washington, D.C.
Albert Bierstadt – Puget Sound On The Pacific Coast
It depicts large waves crashing against the beach, natives dragging boats ashore, and divine luminance from the skies seemingly fighting against the earthly gloom.
The Last Of The Buffalo, 1888
Another magnificent piece to which Albert Bierstadt’s art owes its reverence, The Last Of The Buffalo, depicts a clash between two endangered but essential parts of American nature, which acts as the symbol of the adverse effects of westernization.
We see Native Americans on horseback hunting Buffalo, some of which have been killed already. This painting of the Great Plains of North America was created when westernization pushed the diminishing Native Americans onto the outskirts, leaving them to fend for Buffalo in anticipation of winter, with Buffalos also going into extinction at that time.
This piece caused a certain level of controversy, more so that its size and inherent styles were critiqued, and the whole piece was rejected at the 1889 Paris Exposition Universelle.
Albert Bierstadt – The Last Of The Buffalo
Regardless, The Last of The Buffalo holds its place at the top, with Albert Bierstadt calling it one of his best efforts.
Albert Bierstadt’s works are set apart from other artists in the Hudson River School movement, mainly by his insistence on showcasing the utter expanse of unexplored American land. Although the climactic reverence for Albert Bierstadt’s artworks died out in the late 19th century, it inspired the American Regionalism movement and photographers pushing for landscape conservation, like Ansel Adams.