Albert  Bierstadt 

Birth Year : 1830
Death Year : 1902
Country : Germany

Albert Bierstadt, born near Düsseldorf, Germany, was the leading painter of what may be thought of as the Rocky Mountain section of the Hudson River School. He came to the United States in 1832 and spent his boyhood in Massachusetts. He produced his first oil painting when he was twenty-one, and two years later went back to Düsseldorf where he remained for four years, learning to paint in the approved nineteenth-century German Romantic manner. Bierstadt returned to America in 1857 and spent a summer in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, sketching and taking photographs of scenery. In 1858, he joined a government expedition to the Rocky Mountains, where he made quick sketches in oil, never taking more than fifteen minutes to portray a scene. His aim was to rework these sketches in his studio to get the best effects possible from the picturesque and unknown scenery. Since he was not interested in exactitude, he altered the scenery for dramatic weight and thus distinguished himself from the meticulously naturalistic Hudson River artists Thomas Cole, Frederick Edwin Church, and Asher B. Durand. Bierstadt's works are dramatically lit and colored almost to a formula: ice-blue water; richly green foregrounds sharply distinguished from blue and green mountains which fade hazily into the distance, capped with fluffy clouds that make bright reflections; and genre elements-animals, Indians, soldiers, settlers-in the immediate foreground. 

Both as original oils and as engravings, Bierstadt's works were very successful, not only in the United States, but also in Europe, where his works fortified the conception of the wildness of the young nation. Before long, he could command prices of up to $35,000 for a large oil canvas, and his works adorned the castles of Europe and the homes of American millionaires. European critics praised his work, and he was awarded medals in Austria, Prussia, Bavaria, Belgium, and France. He chose, however, to remain in the United States, and he built a huge castle, Malkasten, overlooking the Hudson, where he lived and worked until his death. 


Albert Bierstadt
Sierra Nevada in California, The

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