Germany/United States, January 7,
1830 - February 18, 1902
19th Century Romantic Impressionist
Albert Bierstadt was a
German-American painter best known
for his luminous, awe inspiring
landscapes of the American West.
He made several trips during the
Westward Expansion obtaining subject
matter for his works.
Born in Solingen, Germany,
Bierstadt's family moved to New
Bedford, Massachusetts when he was a
year old. He showed his true
artistic talent as a child with his
crayola sketches and at the age of
20, he graduated to oil paints.
He studied painting in
Düsseldorf from 1853 to 1857 and he
taught drawing and painting before
devoting himself to painting.
Yosemite Valley, Yosemite Park (c.
Oakland Museum, Oakland, California
Storm in the Mountains (1870)
Bierstadt began making paintings in
New England and upstate New York. In
1859, he traveled westward in the
company of Frederick W. Lander, a
land surveyor for the U.S.
government, returning with sketches
that would result in numerous
finished paintings. In 1863 he
returned west again, in the company
of the author Fitz Hugh Ludlow,
whose wife he would later marry. He
continued to visit the American West
throughout his career.
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
and in his use of light was felt to
be excessive by contemporary
critics. His paintings emphasized
atmospheric elements like fog,
clouds and mist to accentuate and
complement the feel of his work.
Bierstadt sometimes changed details
of the landscape to inspire awe. The
colors he used are also not always
true. He painted what he believed
was the way things should be: water
is ultramarine, vegetation is lush
and green, etc.
1860 he was elected a member of the
National Academy; he received medals
in Austria, Bavaria, Belgium, and
Germany; and his paintings remain
popular. He was a prolific artist,
having completed over 500
(possibly as many as 4000) paintings
during his lifetime, most of which
have survived. Many are scattered
through museums around the United
States. Prints are available
commercially for many. Original
paintings themselves do occasionally
come up for sale, at ever increasing
In 1882 his studio
Irvington, New York, was destroyed
by fire, with many of his pictures.