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January 7, 1830 - February 18, 1902
Albert Bierstadt was born at Dusseldorf; he came to the U.S. with his parents when only a child and began to paint when he was 29.
Bierstadt began painting in New England and upstate New York. In 1859, he traveled westward in the company of Frederick W. Lander, a land surveyor for the U.S. government, returning with sketches that would result in numerous finished paintings. In 1863 he returned west again, in the company of the author Fitz Hugh Ludlow, whose wife he would later marry. He continued to visit the American West throughout his career.
Though his paintings sold for princely sums, Bierstadt was not held in particularly high esteem by critics of his day. His use of large canvases was thought to be an egotistical indulgence as his paintings invariably dwarf those of his contemporaries when they were displayed together.
August 8, 1869, Daily Alta California, San Francisco
A FRENCH CRITIC ON BIERSTADT.
Theophile Gautier, the well known art critic, in a recent feuilleton in the Journal Official de V Empire Francais, speaking of the pictures at the recent exposition, says:
Albert Bierstadt is an American landscape painter who enjoys a high reputation in the New World, and one which he deserves, for he has much talent, as his "Storm in the Rocky Mountain" shows.
The size of his canvas is decidedly beyond that which landscape painting generally employs, and we think that the artist has done well to adopt such large dimensions, having to express a nature so gigantic. Objects reduced to too small a scale lose their interest in their microscopic diminutiveness, and cannot be comprehended.
The scene which Bierstadt depicts to us is grand; an amphitheatre of mountains, so high that they could easily overlook Mont Bianc, environ an enormous chasm, the extremity of which is occupied by a lake, with waters sombre as steal. On their lower slopes bridle forests of trees, ot a prodigious height, beside which the giants of our European woods are dwarfs; cascades dash from rock to rock, breaking themselves into clouds of spray sufficient to feed rivers, and in the upper regions dash against one another like furious armies; clouds whipped by the storm, vapors torn by the ragged rocks, and whirlwinds of snow swept from the glaciers. But the wing of the hurricane is not powerful enough to raise it above the mountain whose while and serene bead, relieved against the azure sky, rules all this tumult, and justifies the saying: "Pacem summa tenent."
This picture, which initiates us into a new nature, besides the merit of representing scenery whose character is unknown to us, possesses that of being painted with great skill, and in a manner which recalls the handling of Calame, a painter who was not sufficiently appreciated in France, and who knew how to give Alpine scenes better than all others. Bierstadt may be proud of the resemblance.
January 10, 1877, Oakland Tribune, Oakland, California
Only four days ago the journals announced that the Earl of Dunraven and Mr. Albert Bierstadt were hunting moose in Nova Scotia. Now they state that the same gentlemen are sketching among the mountains of Colorado. The only explanation of this apparent contriduction is that there are two distinct parties, each one of the two noblemen being accompanied by the brother of the other. Therefore, at the same time that the Earl of Dunraven and Mr.Albert Bierstadt are hunting moose in Nova Scotia, it is quite possible for the Earl of Bierstadt and Mr. Albert Dunraven to be sketching winter scenery in Colorado.
February 24, 1902, Anaconda Standard, Anaconda, Montana
On his return to the United States he introduced what is known in this country as the Dusseldorf school of landscape painting. His Rocky Mountain pictures and his later works - Italian and Alpine subjects - were striking examples of this school.
Bierstadt was one of the first to attempt to paint the canyon of the Yellowstone. On big canvases, with broad, free treatment and with a use of color that seemed revolutionary, Bierstadt painted the canyon as he saw it. Critics were were amazed and then condemnatory. They declared that the coloring was an impossibility. Those who came and saw the canyon testified to the truth of the pictures, and gradually the critics and the public learned that Bierstadt was right. Among those who attempt to describe the beauties of the national park in words, it is a favorite remark that no brush can picture the gilorious coloring of the canyon; and yet Bierstadt did it. Few of his pictures remain in the West -- some are in the capitol at Washington, some in the Lenox collection, some in August Belmont collection, some in the Academy of Fine Arts in Bostin, some in the Corcoran gallery in Washington and others scattered abroad.
SO LONG is it since the name of Albert Bierstadt has been heard in the West that the news of his death last week atttracted little attention in the country in which he found material for some of his greatest pictures. Bierstadt came to Montana and the Rocky Mountain region years ago; he saw, he painted and he went away, but his pictures did more than anything else to give the outer world an adequate idea of the scenic glories of the Yellowstone and of the Rocky Mountains. To-day the pictures are scattered widely over the earth, in pubilic and private collections, but they stand as the truest and best of all pictorial reproductions of the rugged grandeur, the wonderful coloring and the splendid atmosphere of Montana and Wyoming.
The Gold Rush of 1849 attracted artists from the East Coast, some to prospect, others to create illustrations for magazines and books. Money was also earned by making panoramas, which were scenes painted on long rolls of canvas that could be viewed like today?s motion pictures. One of the most notable in this medium was Henry Miller (active 1856-1857). The most important result from such profit-from-art ideas was the development of a professional resident art community in San Francisco.
Immigrant artists began to turn out oils and watercolors in a full range of subjects, displaying styles from the cities from which they had come. Particularly well-known artists of the Gold Rush era are Marine painter, German born Charles Christian Nahl (1818-1878), Alburtus Del Orient Browere (1814-1887), who made extended trips from his native New York, and Ernest Narjot (1826-1898) who came from France in search of gold in 1849. Narjot settled in San Francisco to paint, becoming one of the most accomplished artists in the city. An outstanding portraitist was William Smith Jewett (1812-1873), as was Nahl.
Several highly talented artists moved to the city and organizations such as the California Art Union, the Graphic Club, and The San Francisco Art Association, formed to encourage the fine arts. The year 1874 marked the establishment of California?s first art school, The School of Design, in San Francisco.