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Albert Bierstadt: The Finest Landscape Artist
The entire world knows the German-born American, Albert Bierstadt, to be among the most finest landscape artists ever produced. He was largely motivated to choose landscape painting after witnessing the mesmerizing beauty of the American West. Bierstadt was a romantic and his romanticism with nature reflected in his life-like panoramic paintings of great landscapes of unsettled America. The German-born artist used to travel a lot. All of his knowledge of landscape and thus his recreation of it can be attributed to his frequent visits to the Bahamas, several countries in Europe and of course, the western and northern parts of America. Apart from being a phenomenal painter, he was also quite skillful photographer. He often took photographs of sceneries, sketched them roughly onto paper and then made them into huge paintings. Once unvalued and not seen for what they are, the works of Albert Bierstadt now hold a special place in the history of America.
Early Education of Albert Bierstadt
In the year 1831, Bierstadt’s family moved to the state of Massachusetts from his birthplace Germany. Developing the skill of sketching at a tender age, he grew up aspiring to be an artist. History reveals very little about his childhood and teenage. However it is known that he started to commercialize his artistic talents, marketing himself (on his own) as an art teacher.
Youthful Years of Albert Bierstadt
He started giving monochromatic painting lessons in New Bedford in the year 1950. The very same year he put his early artworks on display in an exhibition. The German-born artist soon had an epiphany and realized the limited scope of the work he was currently doing. Upon this, he went to Germany and started studying under formal supervision of the faculty at the Dusseldorf School of Painting. His attendance of the school, from 1853 to 1857, claimed five significant years of his life. He was influenced by the works of Andreas Achenbach and Carl Friedrich Lessing there. Bierstadt employed these influences into his own work and managed to solidify his technique. His instructors at the school made him paint with detailed strokes and advocated better use of lighting in order to create more depth.
The Beginning of Bierstadt’s Painting Career
Records reveal that the German-born artist’s painting career dawned at the time he was living in New York. He journeyed through the entire country very frequently in order to visualize the landscape he wanted to replicate. Bierstadt, accompanied by Colonel Frederick Lander, an employ in the land surveying sector of the government of the United States of America, began travelling towards the west. Upon his return, the sketches he had made of the beautiful places he’d been to turned into actual paintings through his hands. He went back to the rather devoid of population western part of the country in 1863 accompanied by Fitz Hugh Ludlow (who was a writer).
The Rocky Mountains, Lander’s Peak by Albert Bierstadt
He painted his very first landscape in panorama in the year 1864. Bierstadt’s painting ‘The Rocky Mountains, Lander’s Peak’ brought him world wide recognition and thus was the start of his brief yet successful painting career.
Achievements in The Painting Career of Albert Bierstadt
Being a member of the prestigious Hudson River School, a loose group of likeminded artists, Albert Bierstadt was exposed to paintings in similar taste to those he made, carrying an exquisite amount of detail, encapsulating man’s romance with nature. Albert,alongside other esteemed landscape artists such as Thomas Moran, Thomas Hill, William Keith and more was an inductee at the Rocky Mountain School as well. The German-born artist answered to the calling of the National Academy of Design (in New York City) in the year 1860, when they offered him a very respectful position: being one of the chief promoters of art in America. He was bestowed with medals for his achievements as a landscape painter in many European countries namely: Austria, Bavaria, Belgium and Germany.
How Dusseldorf School of Art Helped Bierstadt
Two transitional stages lead him to his eventual success: first, his attendance of the Dusseldorf School of Art, where he learned how to paint a more life-like painting with dramatic highlights and deep details and secondly, his journeying through the northern and western parts of America and his understanding of the sceneries and landscapes of the area.
List of Works and Paintings by Albert Bierstadt
The German-born painter’s first work ever to be sold was The Portico of Octavia Rome. It was purchased by the Boston Athenaeum in the year 1857. Bierstadt’s career as an artist was taking a turn for the better in the late 1850s. His works were exhibited in New York’s National Academy of Design in 1858. This was the first time in history his works were displayed solo. The United States Capital employed him to make two paintings for them which were then to be put on display. He was chosen to be sent to Queen Victoria in 1867 and held the high honor of being awarded Napoleon the third’s Legion of Honor. He finished more than 500 works of landscape all through his life plus he painted almost 4000 paintings that can be found in various art galleries and museums in both Europe and the US.
Albert Bierstadt’s Painting Techniques
The artist’s most commonly used formula was the usage of rich oil paints upon a huge canvass (with some of them being over 9 feet in width and length). The techniques he learned at the Dusseldorf art school helped him create very exquisite and elaborate replications of the vast and beautiful landscape of Northern America. The dramatic details of his works, resulting from the marriage of fine strokes and rich color and bright lighting, elicit a thousand emotions in their beholders. Every work of his creates a different mood altogether. His paintings are large in size and rather unorthodox but the depth of the sceneries he painted and the masterful set of techniques he used doing so made them just as life-like, just as deep and just as romantic as the actual landscapes.
Criticism on Bierstadt’s Paintings
Albert Bierstadt was one of the most strongly criticized artists of his age. He was allegedly belittling the works of his contemporaries by using such huge canvasses. Some even called him an egotist. The rest poured down negative remarks on his technique (especially the dramatic touch he gave to his paintings by color, light and shading). The German-born artist was a romantic himself and strongly believed that one should paint whatever he or she sees and not how things ideally look like. The authenticity of his landscapes was often challenged due to the techniques he employed. Some artist capitalized on the argument that the addition of rich atmosphere to the sceneries (like fog, clouds, shadows) was just an attempt at glorifying an otherwise barren landscape. Bierstadt actually did make changes to the original sceneries at times just to force the viewer to think the way he thought.
Personal Life of Albert Bierstadt
Bierstadt remained the most well known name in landscape painting for what remained of the 19th century since the dawn of his art career. When his career was at its summit, he stayed back at a studio he had made near the Hudson River in the year 1882. His studio’s name was Malkasten. He got married in 1886 and started making trips to Europe and the outback of North America again. Bierstadt travelled (with his wife) to the Bahamas when Mrs. Bierstadt fell ill off tuberculosis. Tragically, a huge collection of his paintings, both finished and unfinished and gifts from US Army officials from his tours of the West were burned in an accidental fire at his studio.
His wife, after struggling with her condition for a long time, died in the year 1893. Bierstadt’s work soon lost its influence as the French art movement: Impressionism started gaining more and more acceptance from the masses. Impressionistic paintings were now preferred over works of realism. The landscape artist hit rock bottom in 1895. He got completely bankrupt near the end and passed away in New York City as a forgotten name in the world of art. He was 72 when he died.
Albert Bierstadt The Master of Landscape Painting
Albert Bierstadt was a master of landscape painting. The colorful exaggerations of vast and often barren sceneries was his trademark and that it shall forever remain. The valleys he painted stretched vastly, the mountains mighty and unsurpassable and the waterfalls colorful and overflowing with life; his works were held in high esteem in his lifetime and are appreciated greatly to this day.