Albert BierstadtU.S. 1830-1902
Latourell Falls, Near Colombia River Oregon 25.0024
Albert Bierstadt's second expedition west, in 1863, to California on the old Oregon Trail, included a trip north to the Columbia River. He completed many plein-air sketches there that may have resulted in this painting of Latourell Falls. Bierstadt came to America from Germany with his parents at age two. His family settled in New Bedford, Massachusetts. Bierstadt returned to Germany in his twenties to study painting at the Düsseldorf Academy, where he learned to paint with a highly finished technique and a meticulous eye for detail. When Bierstadt returned to America, he realized that the heroic American West was an under-represented subject matter. Frederick Edwin Church, the only other large-scale landscape painter, focused on the Hudson River Valley (East Coast) and South America. Bierstadt set out to represent the "West as it really was." However, these, like Church's panoramic paintings, were more composites than faithful transcriptions. In 1858, Bierstadt set out with Colonel Frederick Lander on an expedition searching for an overland route to the Pacific from Wyoming. He then returned to New York, setting up a studio in the same building as Church, and began producing massive, epic pictures of the untamed Rockies and its wilderness. Trips to Yosemite Valley followed, resulting in more grand panoramic vista paintings that secured his reputation as the premiere painter of the last frontier. Bierstadt's success coincided with the boom in western business (logging and mining) and the push of railroads into western territories, the fulfillment of the political and nationalistic ideology of "Manifest Destiny." Many of Bierstadt's paintings became trophies, purchased for exorbitant sums by financiers and the newly rich.
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