What I love about this painting:
I live on Puget Sound, and while the exact beach this image depicts likely does not exist, the cliffs are pretty accurate. I have seen many, many places here like it. The waters of the sound can get quite rough during storms, as this video shot three years ago by a storm chaser during a December storm shows: Wild Ferry Ride Across Puget Sound Dec. 16 2018.
Anyone who lives here will tell you, the view of the Olympic Mountains from over the sound is unparalleled.
At certain times of the year, rain sweeps in like a dark beast. I have often seen the sky as black and heavy as it is depicted in this painting. Shafts of sun between heavy rain squalls are frequent companions here. When the sun shines through the heavy clouds, the light looks very much the way he shows it.
A sky that looks like the one in this painting heralds a serious storm. If you are driving anywhere during this kind of weather, you are in for a slow, miserable trip.
Quote from http://www.SeattleArtMuseum.org, regarding Puget Sound on the Pacific Coast, 1870, which is now in their possession.
“Bierstadt had likely not yet traveled to the Washington Territory in 1870. The painting was possibly a commission from a New York shipping magnate who had made his enormous fortune on the Pacific coast. Enterprising artist that he was, Bierstadt did not shy away from the challenge of painting a place he had not yet seen.”
I love that Bierstadt was a story teller as much as an entrepreneur in regard to his art. All the great artists were.
It has been suggested he put this picture together by piecing together places he had visited on the Lower Columbia River. Indeed, the trees and landscape there is much like that of Puget Sound, so it is possible. However, it would have been easy for him to have traveled north to the sound if he was on the Lower Columbia—a matter of only eighty miles, so a week of travel for him by horse.
He was a man who traveled all over the west and painted what he felt as much as what he saw.
Wikipedia has this to say about Albert Bierstadt:
In 1867, Bierstadt traveled to London, where he exhibited two landscape paintings in a private reception with Queen Victoria. He traveled through Europe for two years, cultivating social and business contacts to sustain the market for his work overseas. His exhibition pieces were brilliant images, which glorified the American West as a land of promise and “fueled European emigration.” He painted Among the Sierra Nevada, California in his Rome studio, for example, showed it in Berlin and London before shipping it to the U.S. As a result of the publicity generated by his Yosemite Valley paintings in 1868, Bierstadt’s presence was requested by every explorer considering a westward expedition, and he was commissioned by the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad to visit the Grand Canyon for further subject matter.
Bierstadt’s choice of grandiose subjects was matched by his entrepreneurial flair. His exhibitions of individual works were accompanied by promotion, ticket sales, and, in the words of one critic, a “vast machinery of advertisement and puffery.”
Bierstadt was highly successful in his day, which the more refined critics despised. Everything the critics mocked about his work are the aspects I love. The high contrasts of light and shadow, sweeping epic themes, and overblown romanticism—those are what I love about all his work.
In all his works, Bierstadt created an emotional landscape as much as a physical one.
Puget Sound on the Pacific Coast by Albert Bierstadt
- Genre: landscape art
- Date: 1870
- Medium: oil on canvas
- Dimensions: Height: 52.5 ″ (133.3 cm); Width: 82 ″ (208.2 cm)
- Collection: Seattle Art Museum
- Current location: Seattle Art Museum Downtown, Gallery Level 3, American Art
Credits and Attributions:
Puget Sound on the Pacific Coast, by Albert Bierstadt, signed and dated 1870 [Public domain]
Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Albert Bierstadt – Puget Sound on the Pacific Coast (1870).jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Albert_Bierstadt_-_Puget_Sound_on_the_Pacific_Coast_(1870).jpg&oldid=344396079 (accessed April 26, 2019).
Quote from the article: Puget Sound on the Pacific Coast, Seattle Art Museum website contributors, (accessed April 25, 2019).