Albert Bierstadt

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About this artist

During the 1860s Albert Bierstadt was one of America’s most celebrated landscape painters. He was born in a town near Düsseldorf, Germany, but his family moved to New Bedford, Massachusetts, when he was two years old. As a self-taught artist he was active as early as 1850, but his mature style was formed at the Düsseldorf Academy, where he studied from 1853 to 1856. He associated there with the American artists EMANUEL LEUTZE and WORTHINGTON WHITTREDGE and was influenced by the work of the German landscape painters Karl-Friedrich Lessing (1808-1880) and Andreas Achenbach (1815-1910). Beginning in the summer of 1856 he traveled through Germany and visited Italy with Whittredge and SANFORD R. GIFFORD. In 1859 and again in 1863 he traveled throughout the American West, achieving immediate success with the spectacular, highly finished, large canvases that introduced eastern audiences to the marvels of this virtually unknown scenery. Bierstadt was thereafter identified with the western landscape.

Capturing the imagination of the public during the 1860s, Bierstadt experienced great demand for his paintings and enjoyed sufficient financial success to build Malkasten, his large home in Irvington-on-Hudson. Based in or near New York, he continued to make frequent trips. From 1867 to 1869 he traveled in Europe and from 1871 to 1873 worked in Northern California, traveling through the region to make oil studies that he combined and worked up into the large finished paintings that he produced in his studio in San Francisco. After the middle of the 1870s his style fell into critical disfavor. He underwent bankruptcy in 1895. Bierstadt spent much of his last years promoting his inventions but continued to travel abroad and to paint.

"Albert Bierstadt" California Art Research 2 (1936): 98-129, with lists of representative works, public collections, exhibitions, awards, and clubs, bibliography § Richard Shafer Trump, "Life and Works of Albert Bierstadt," Ph.D. diss., Ohio State University, 1963, with catalogue of significant works, bibliography § Gordon Hendricks, Albert Bierstadt: Painter of the American West (New York: Harry N. Abrams in association with Amon Carter Museum of Western Art, Fort Worth, Tex., 1973), with geographical checklist of paintings in American public collections, chronology, bibliography § Catherine H. Campbell, "Albert Bierstadt and the White Mountains," Arch. Am. Art Journal 21, no. 3 (1981): 14-23, with annotated list of White Mountain scenes § Allan Pringle, "Albert Bierstadt in Canada," American Art Journal 17 (Winter 1985): 2-27.