German/American Hudson River School Painter, 1830-1902
Albert Bierstadt is best known for his monumental, panoramic scenes of the American West. Executed with dramatic flair, these paintings captured the vastness and raw power of a still unfamiliar landscape.
In the 1860s and early 1870s, Bierstadt's landscapes of the American West were widely exhibited and commanded high prices both nationally and internationally.
Bierstadt's family moved to New Bedford, Massachusetts in 1832. Early in life Bierstadt earned local success and by 1850 he exhibited independently. Eager to enhance his skills, Bierstadt spent
several years in Dusseldorf, Germany in the 1850s. In 1859, he traveled to the South Pass region of Wyoming with the survey team of Colonel Frederick Lander. The numerous sketches Bierstadt made along
the route served as sources for his later paintings. Four years later, in 1863, Beirstadt and the writer Fritz Hugh Ludlow journeyed to Oregon and the Columbia River area of Northern California. That
same year, his first major painting, The Rocky Mountains, inaugurated a period of critical and popular acclaim for him.
A Stream in the Rocky Mountains
is a late work by Albert Bierstadt. Although it includes the dramatic elements found in his earlier landscapes, it differs from them in its relatively small size and sense of intimacy. Instead of his characteristic panoramic format, Bierstadt depicts this site from a closer view and from a less dwarfing perspective. The exaggerated verticality of the water emphasizes the length of the fall, a device Bierstadt commonly used to heighten contrast. An Indian, pole in hand, perhaps serves as a symbol for uncorrupted wilderness, and as a nostalgic reminder of its dwindling existence.
In these later paintings, Bierstadt addressed the timely concerns of the nation as it pursued its concept of manifest destiny. He documented the vanishing frontier and the
dramatic wonders of the American West before the progression of "civilization" forever altered their natural beauty.