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Albert Bierstadt

Bierstadt, Albert, Storm in the Rocky Mountains, 1886

Albert Bierstadt (1830-1902) was an American painter who followed the westward expansion. He is best known for his large, detailed landscape paintings.

Albert Bierstadt was born in Germany. His family moved to New Bedford, Massachusetts, in 1833. He studied painting in Düsseldorf, Germany from 1853 to 1857. He taught drawing and painting briefly before devoting himself to painting.

Bierstadt was part of the Hudson River School, not an institution but rather an informal group of like-minded painters. The Hudson River School style involved carefully detailed paintings with romantic, almost glowing lighting, sometimes called luminism.

Bierstadt began making paintings in New England and upstate New York. In 1859, he traveled westward in the company of a land surveyer the U.S. government, returning with sketches that would result in numerous finished paintings. He continued to visit the American West throughout his career.

Though his paintings sold for princely sums, Bierstadt was not held in particularly high esteem by critics of his day. His use of uncommonly large canvases was thought to be an egotistical indulgence, as his paintings would invariably dwarf those of his contemporaries when they were displayed together. The romanticism evident in his choices of subject and in his use of light was felt to be excessive by contemporary critics, a charge that continues to be leveled by many of today's art historians.

Nonetheless, his paintings remain popular. He was a prolific artist, having completed over 400 (not sure about this???) paintings during his lifetime, most of which have survivied. Many are scattered through museums around the U.S. Prints are available commercially for many. Original paintings themselves do occasionally come up for sale.


The best book on Bierstadt is: Hendricks, Gordon. Albert Bierstadt, Painter of the American West. It contains a fair number of color reproductions of his paintings, including all major works, and black and white reproductions of many of the remainder. The book is now out of print; used copies in good condition command premium prices. Some libraries have copies.