Albert Bierstadt

Written by Blaire Chandler-Wilcox
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Albert Bierstadt (b. Germany 1830-1902) painted enormous canvasses that captured the grandeur and glory of the landscape of the American West. One of the most revered members of the Hudson River School style of painting, Albert Bierstadt was one of the most respected artists of the 19th century. The scale and subject of his paintings were spectacular and dramatic, and his works commanded the highest prices of the day.

Born in Germany, Albert Bierstadt moved to the United States with his family at the age of two. As an early adult, along with masses of other young American artists, he returned to Europe to train formally. Upon his return, he adapted the romantic European view of nature to his own homeland. Bierstadt, along with other artists now referred to as The Hudson River School, rejected fashionable portraiture in favor of American landscape painting.

Albert Bierstadt and The Hudson River School

Bierstadt was one of the most prominent and successful members of this American movement. The Hudson River School was so named because this New York river and regional valley area was a favorite subject of these new American painters. A key distinction of the work of The Hudson River School, and Albert Bierstadt in particular, is the change in the significance of people in the work. Previously, men and women, their children, sometimes even their pets were the point of the paintings, and the center of attention. However, in Hudson River School paintings, humans that appear are supporting players in the painting's drama, and at most provide scale and perspective compared to the mountains, the trees, the canyons, and the other dramatic natural subjects.

Alfred Bierstadt was the American West painter of his time. Looking at his work, there is great emphasis on light, texture, and emotion. He captures the rugged glory of the pristine western landscape, and his influence continues to be seen today, particularly in the work of contemporary artists like Thomas Kinkade.


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