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Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 460

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This is the grave of Albert Bierstadt.

Born in Solingen, Germany in 1830, in 1831, Bierstadt’s family immigrated to New Bedford, Massachusetts. He was a talent artist from the time he was young. In 1853, he returned to Germany to study with leading artists there. He was particularly interested in large landscape paintings, particularly those of Alps, where he visited and studied during his time in Germany. He returned to New Bedford in 1857 and the next year had his first big public showing, highlighting a Swiss Alps landscape. He thus gravitated toward the Hudson River School and worked with those painters for awhile.

But Bierstadt was also adventurous and the relatively tame landscapes of New York were not exactly the Swiss Alps. This was the same time that there were major parties exploring the American West and Bierstadt began joining them. He traveled to the West in 1859 and 1863 and subsequently painted enormous landscapes of the Rockies that sometimes look more like the Alps, but provided Americans with the vast grandeur they desired to see in their landscapes that compared to anything Europe had to offer. He became the most sought after painter of western landscapes in this period. Of course, the Civil War got in the way, but he paid a replacement $300 to serve in his stead, and was common for wealthy people, which by now included Bierstadt. He went to Europe after the war and continued to paint his western landscapes, which were also popular there. An inveterate self-promoter, he worked hard to make sure he was seen as the most important western painter. It worked. The Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad for instance commissioned him to travel to the Grand Canyon and paint it in order to promote travel to the nation’s new tourist destinations on that railroad.

By the 1880s, the artistic climate in the nation changed and Bierstadt fell out of style. He continued painting his big landscapes, but received a lot less money for them. Plus, his studio burned in 1882, taking with it much of his unsold work. Still, over 500 paintings survive. Bierstadt died in 1902.

Let’s look at some of Bierstadt’s work.

Yosemite Valley, Yosemite Park, c. 1868
Mount Adams, Washington, 1875
The Rocky Mountains, Lander’s Peak (1863)
Lake Tahoe (1868)

Albert Bierstadt is buried in Rural Cemetery, New Bedford, Massachusetts.

If you would like this series to visit more American landscape painters, you can donate to cover the required expenses here. George Catlin is in Brooklyn and Thomas Cole is in Catskill, New York. Previous posts in this series are archived here.

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