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Albert Bierstadt (1830- 1902)

Likely the most famous and financially successful late 19th-century painter of the American western landscape, Albert Bierstadt created grandiose, dramatic scenes of the Rocky Mountains and Sierra Nevadas that lured many people to visit those sites. He was also one of the first artists to use a camera to record landscape views.

Albert Bierstadt oil paintings, many of them huge, were the ultimate expression of the popular 19th-century Romanticism. But his reputation diminished when public taste in art changed dramatically and replaced Realism and Romanticism with Impressionism and when transcontinental railway travel revealed that the West looked nothing like his idealized paintings.

Albert Bierstadt was born in Solingen, near Dusseldorf, Germany, and sailed as a baby with his family who settled in New Bedford, Massachusetts. Unlike many of his successful peers, as a child, he showed only casual interest in and talent for art, and he had little encouragement from his family. In New Bedford, he acquired a few collectors of his early work including a Mrs. Hathaway from a local shipping family. At a New Bedford Concert Hall, he also used the floral images of George Harvey (1800-1878) for a scenery picture shows with a Drummond Light, a lantern that allowed one picture to fade into another.

In 1853, Albert Bierstadt returned to Dusseldorf where he studied at the Royal Academy with landscape painters Andreas Aschenbach and Karl Friedman Lessing. Some of his fellow students were Emmanuel Leutze, Sanford Gifford and Worthington Whittredge, and they all learned much attention to detail, respect for composition and skilled drawing. During this period, he traveled extensively in Europe, especially Italy, and companions were Whittredge and Gifford. Albert Bierstadt completed many picturesque Old World scenes in the style that later became his trademark.

In 1857, Albert Bierstadt returned to the United States and painted the White Mountains of New Hampshire, and in 1858, exhibited for the first time at the National Academy of Design in New York. His fourteen entries included, Lake Lucerne, which was one of the biggest in the exhibition. That same year, representatives of the Boston Atheneum, purchased his painting, The Portico of Octavia, Rome, for $400.00 and this was the first museum purchase acquisition of his work. Credit: askart.com

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