Tag Archives: Albert Bierstadt

#FineArtFriday: Puget Sound on the Pacific Coast by Albert Bierstadt 1870

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 by a storm chaser in December 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).

Comments Off on #FineArtFriday: Puget Sound on the Pacific Coast by Albert Bierstadt 1870

Filed under #FineArtFriday

#FineArtFriday: Mount Adams by Albert Bierstadt

Quote from Wikimedia Commons: Albert Bierstadt enjoyed great success in the years surrounding the Civil War, producing finely detailed vistas of nature’s splendor in majestic canvases that were similarly invested with significance beyond their surface appearance.

The first technically advanced artist to portray the American West, Bierstadt offered to a rapidly transforming nation pictures whose spectacular size and fresh, dramatic subject matter supplied a visual correlative to notions of American exceptionalism, while also contributing to the developing concept of Manifest Destiny.

Trained in the highly finished manner of the Düsseldorf Academy, Bierstadt’s precise style imbued his works with a reassuring sense of veracity despite their sublime subjects and occasional liberties with geographic reality. In Mount Adams, Washington, he characteristically combined an impressively scaled natural background with a foreground view of American Indian life, which serves to heighten the picture’s putative realism even as it enhances its exotic appeal.

The implied movement of the clouds and the sunlit figures on horseback similarly off to the right seems to open up the depicted space for the viewer to inhabit, providing an apt pictorial metaphor for the actual occupation and exploitation of the West by the eastern interests that constituted the artist’s clientele.


Credits and Attributions:

Mount Adams by Albert Bierstadt [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:1875, Bierstadt, Albert, Mount Adams, Washington.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:1875,_Bierstadt,_Albert,_Mount_Adams,_Washington.jpg&oldid=272380899 (accessed March 9, 2018).

 

 

3 Comments

Filed under #FineArtFriday

#FineArtFriday: Albert Bierstadt, The Rocky Mountains, Landers Peak 1860

When I sit down to write, my work is usually fiction. Even so, I want my work to have authenticity, although I might never have experienced what I am writing about. Whether a piece is set in an alternate world, or in this one, or if it is in the past, present, or future, a source of visual information you can use to fire your imagination exists on the internet–Wikimedia Commons.

For example, today’s image is a landscape painting by Albert Bierstadt, an American painter best known for his lavish, sweeping landscapes of the American West.  This painting shows what tribal life after a successful hunt might be like, and if you are writing about any group of people who hunt or gather food, this particular painting contain a wealth of historically accurate visual information. He painted what he saw. In all of Bierstadt’s work, you will find a world that existed 150 years ago, complete with children playing and dogs barking.

Wikipedia has this to say about the painter:

Born in Germany, Bierstadt was brought to the United States at the age of one by his parents. He later returned to study painting for several years in Düsseldorf. He became part of the Hudson River School in New York, an informal group of like-minded painters who started painting along the Hudson River. Their style was based on carefully detailed paintings with romantic, almost glowing lighting, sometimes called luminism. An important interpreter of the western landscape, Bierstadt, along with Thomas Moran, is also grouped with the Rocky Mountain School.

The life of the American West of the 19th century can be directly translated into a science fiction novel, or a fantasy novel–because the elements of hunting and gathering remain the same no matter what world you set it in. A great many people were involved in taking down a few animals–two antelope, one mountain sheep, and one bear. Hunts of this nature, even with modern weapons, are difficult and fraught with danger. For this reason, the take from this hunt will supply the entire camp of perhaps 100 people for one or two weeks., so foraging for roots, berries, and greens was an important task, as was fishing.

In this painting, you see how the tribe’s homes were constructed, and how the camp was laid out–the butchering party is well away from the rest of the camp, which is on the banks of a river. Everything that was important to the lives of these people is laid out in detail, exactly how it was the day the artist set up his easel in the wilderness and began painting.

Go to history for your world building, and go to art for your history. Don’t be afraid to ‘waste time’ looking at paintings and examining them for minute details, because your imagination will run with it, and your work will have a sense of realism.


Wikipedia contributors, “Albert Bierstadt,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Albert_Bierstadt&oldid=793302910 (accessed August 11, 2017).

The Rocky Mountains, Landers Peak; Albert Bierstadt 1863 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AAlbert_Bierstadt_-_The_Rocky_Mountains%2C_Lander’s_Peak.jpg, accessed August-11-2017.

Comments Off on #FineArtFriday: Albert Bierstadt, The Rocky Mountains, Landers Peak 1860

Filed under #FineArtFriday, writing