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Five Things You should know about Albert Bierstadt Artist

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The German-American painter, Albert Bierstadt, was born in 1830 in Solingen, Germany. When he was just one year old, he and his parents moved to the United States. In 1902, while in New York, he passed away.

He created more than 500 paintings during his art career. However, some art historians believe there could be more than 4,000 Albert Bierstadt paintings. Unfortunately, many were lost in a fire. Nevertheless, he is well known and famous for depicting West American landscapes.

In this article, we’ll very briefly look at who Albert Bierstadt was and then discuss five things art lovers should know about him and his art.

Who was Albert Bierstadt?

Before we look at the five things we think all art lovers should know about Bierstadt, let’s very briefly get some background about his career. Although he was born in Germany, he grew up in the United States. As a young man, he was very interested in the American West and joined many journeys to the area. He joined the journeys to create paintings, make sketches of, and gather information about places where very few Westerners had been at that time.

When he was 23 years old, he returned to Europe to receive an art education. Everything didn’t work out as he had planned, but he met Worthington Whittredge and the German-born Emmanuel Leutze in Europe – two artists who helped him greatly.

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In 1856, he and other artists journeyed with Whittredge to Switzerland and Italy on a painting tour, and many “plein-air” artworks were created during this tour. Many art historians believe that the European experience inspired the works he later created in the American West’s Rocky Mountains.

The Albert Bierstadt paintings describe various topics and subjects of the American West, but he is famous and known for his landscapes. He was not always the first artist to record a site, but he was and still is, regarded as the foremost painter of West American landscapes during the 19th century. In many of his landscapes, beautiful waterfalls are included. Other subjects include American national parks, scenic reserves, glaciers, lakes, and wild animals.

Interesting Fact 1: Bierstadt was an excellent Artist and a Successful Marketer of his Works.

Albert Bierstadt became famous during his early life and then later in his life became almost forgotten. His works became famous, and he sold many works of art because Albert Bierstadt was, apart from being a very talented artist, also a skilled businessman. He marketed the Albert Bierstadt paintings by recognizing his potential buyers’ interests. He sold his work to clients and patrons with different and often opposing views on the American West.

For people who wanted pictures of the early pioneers of the “Wild West”, he ensured that he offered them depictions of the cowboys. Likewise, he created beautiful landscapes for the potential buyers of Albert Bierstadt’s paintings who wanted depictions of the untouched nature of the American West.

The flexibility of Albert Bierstadt’s painting style, combined with his marketing skills, brought him great fame and fortune early in his career. He was one of the few painters of the time to become famous during their lives.

Unfortunately, in later years, his painting style was not so popular anymore, and the market for paintings with the American West as a subject also declined. He couldn’t sell his paintings anymore, and by his death in 1902, he was a largely forgotten artist. He was “rediscovered” about 60 years later in the middle 1900s.

Interesting Fact 2: Potential buyers influenced the Albert Bierstadt Style

Albert Bierstadt’s style was, to a certain extent, influenced by the potential buyers of his art.

As you learn about Bierstadt’s painter, you discover that although his inspiration was always found in the wildlife, landscape, and Indigenous peoples of the American West, he was also influenced by commonly held beliefs of that time. Art historians believe that he adapted the “messages” in his paintings to target the buying market.

It is generally accepted that although he was sometimes swayed to specific artistic choices, he always developed his own ideas about the West.

Interesting Fact 3: Bierstadt alerted the General Public that the Native American Lifestyle and the West American Bison were endangered.

With his paintings, Bierstadt’s painter made the general public aware that the lifestyle of the Native Americans and the American bison in the West were under threat. The best example is the 1888 painting which most art critics see as Albert Bierstadt’s most famous painting – “The Last of the Buffalo”.

Bierstadt created two paintings titled “The Last of the Buffalo” In both works, he glorified historical subjects and people and simultaneously addressed more modern issues, such as the decimation of bison in Yellowstone National Park. These two excellent paintings by Bierstadt painter, helped a lot to make the general public aware that the culture and customs of the Native Americans and the American bison in the West were under threat.

Interesting Fact 4: Bierstadt’s Work evolved throughout his Career

If you look at the list of Albert Bierstadt’s most famous paintings, you discover that he started his career by creating “small” paintings using photographs and sketches he made on the trails. Later in his career, he used the same sketches and photographs to create his famous large-scale paintings.

After his studies in Europe, Bierstadt used more symbols in his paintings. With the symbols, he conveyed complex messages about American subjects.

In his early works, depictions of Native Americans were often included in his paintings. However, later in his career, Bierstadt stopped portraying Native Americans and populated his paintings with bison. Nowadays, his romantic landscapes are the works defining his artistic legacy.

Interesting Fact 5: Albert Bierstadt experienced many Tragedies in his Life.

The more you learn about Albert Bierstadt’s painter, you realize that he had many tragedies to cope with during his life. The first tragedy occurred when Bierstadt was on his way to Europe to study. Hasenclever, who would have helped him to be accepted for studies, unexpectedly died. Suddenly, all his study and living arrangements were not in place anymore.

He experienced a second tragedy in 1876 when his wife, Rosalie, was diagnosed with consumption. Because of the consumption, she stayed most of the year in Nassau while Albert stayed in the US. Unfortunately, Rosalie died when she was only 52 years old. She died in Nassau while Bierstadt was in New York. Because he couldn’t have been with her when she died, he went into depression.

In 1882, the next tragic incident happened. His home and art studio overlooking the Hudson River in Irvington, New York, was destroyed by a fire. As a result, many of his paintings were destroyed, and most of his belongings which he had collected over the years, were lost. The final tragedy was a financial one. His paintings stopped being sold, and without an income from his paintings, Albert declared bankruptcy in 1895.


We hope that by sharing the five things above, we’ve contributed to your understanding of Albert Bierstadt and his art.

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