1830 - 1902
A painter of vast spectacle particularly Switzerland and the unsettled American West, these are 'Sierra Nevada 1871', 'The Rocky Mountains, Lander's Peak' and 'Rocky Mountains', they were painted in his studio from oil sketches made during extensive journeys in the American West. His studio was in the Tenth Street Studio Building (1857) which 'was the first modern facility designed solely to serve the needs of artists. It became the center of the New York art world for the remainder of the nineteenth century.' *
Albert Bierstadt's by now strange mores include paying 'for a substitute to serve in his place when he was drafted (to the American Civil War) in 1863'. His sole painting of the Civil War was from a stereo photograph taken by his brother (Edward Bierstadt ***). 'Bierstadt's painting received a positive review when it was exhibited at the Brooklyn Art Association at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in December 1861, however, Curator Eleanor Jones Harvey observes that Bierstadt's painting, created from photographs, "is quintessentially that of a voyeur, privy to the stories and unblemished by the violence and brutality of first-hand combat experience." **
Avoiding war for voyeurism is sane behaviour. Albert Bierstadt however wanted much much more, to play with fire, to become a grand operatic hero :
'Albert Bierstadt was a handsome, powerful, self-made man who became the highest-paid and most controversial artist in America after the Civil War. He was also a failed hero. At the height of his career in the mid-1860s, he sold 6’ x 10’ canvasses for up to $30,000, introducing the drama of the Rocky Mountains and Yosemite Valley to the world. But he stole a friend’s wife, turned his back on his art critics and peers, and became an haute bourgeoisie. So the gods abandoned him, and he lost everything. First the world of art left him, then his beautiful wife contracted tuberculosis. He lost his reputation and income; his house burned, his wife died and then he went bankrupt. When he died nobody remembered him.'
David M. Delo 'The Heroic Journey of Albert Bierstadt: Artist-Priest of the West' ****
Over 1,000 of his paintings: