biography of Albert BIERSTADT (1830-1902)

Birth place: Solingen, Germany

Death place: NYC

Addresses: New Bedford, MA, 1850-53 and 1857-59; NYC, 1860-70; San Francisco, CA, 1871-73; New York, after 1873

Profession: Landscape and animal painter

Studied: Düsseldorf with A. Achenbach and Lessing and Rome, 1853-57; traveled through the Bernese Alps in 1857 with Worthington Whittredge and Sanford Robinson Gifford and Haseltine.

Exhibited: New York Sanitary Exhib., April, 1864 (included Bierstadt's Rocky Mountains, Lander's Peak" and Church's "Heart of the Andes"); NAD, 1858-88; New Bedford Art Exhib., 1858, New Bedford, MA; PAFA, 1859-67; Boston Athenaeum, 1859-64; Brooklyn AA, 1861-81; Austria (medal); Germany (medal); Bavaria (medal); Belgium (medal); Cross of Legion of Honor, France, 1867; Paris Salon, 1869, 1875, 1879, 1880, 1882, 1889; Degrees of Order of St. Stanislaus, Russia, 1869, 1872; Boston AC, 1873, 1876, 1880; Imperial Order of Medjidi, Turkey, 1886; AIC, 1904; Florence Lewison Gallery, NYC, 1963, 1964; Amon Carter Mus., Ft. Worth, TX, 1972; Old Dartmouth Hist. Soc., 1972; WMAA, 1972."

Member: NA, 1860-1902; Boston AC; Nat. Inst. Arts & Letters; Century Assn.; Am. Geographical Soc., Musical Art Soc.; Union League Club; San Francisco AA (first hon. member)

Work: NMAA; MMA; BMFA; Oakland Mus., CA; Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley; de Young Mus.; Wadsworth Atheneum (Hartford, CT); Capitol, Washington, DC; Hermitage, St. Petersburg; Imperial Palace, Berlin; NYPL; Acad. FA, Buffalo; Amon Carter Mus., Ft. Worth, TX; CGA; Berkshire Mus., Pittsfield, MA; Hirshhorn Mus., Smithsonian; Univ. Notre Dame; Currier Gallery Art, NH; The Millicent Library, Fairhaven, MA; New Bedford (MA) Free Public Library; Corcoran Gall. Art, Washington, DC; NYHS.; Philbrook Mus., Tulsa, OK; St. Johnsbury (VT) Atheneum; Detroit Inst. Arts, Detroit, MI; Shelburne (VT) Mus.; Old Dartmouth Hist. Soc.

Comments: One of the most important landscape painters of the American West, particularly of the Rocky Mountains. He was brought to America in 1832 and grew up at New Bedford, MA. In 1859 he made his first trip out west, joining Col. Frederick West Lander's group across the Plains to the Rocky Mountains. After settling in NYC later that year, Bierstadt created paintings out of the the oil studies he had made of the mountain scenery, as well as from the photographs (he took 100-200 stereoview negatives) he took of camp life and of the Sioux and Shoshone Indians encountered along the way (Indians Near Ft. Laramie," BMFA). With his brothers Charles and Edward, he formed a photography business in NYC (active 1860-66) and the three brothers issued a catalogue of the western views. Albert's career really took flight after a second trip to the West in 1863, during which he traveled with writer Fitzhugh Ludlow to the Colorado Rockies and the Yosemite Valley. On his return he began producing and exhibiting the huge, romantic canvases for which he would attain fame. During these years Bierstadt kept his NYC studio but also built a castle/studio with 35 rooms in Irvington-on-the-Hudson, and continued to travel frequently. He was out West again in 1868 and also revisited Europe in 1867, 1878, and 1883, spending most of his time in Venice and Switzerland. In later years he also painted wild animals of North America. In 1882, his showcase castle home burned, his majestic landscapes had fallen out of style, and both the Paris Expo. of 1889 and the Columbian Expo. of 1893 in Chicago rejected his work. He died nearly bankrupt and it was not until the 1970s that his status as one of the great American landscape painters would be restored.

Sources: G&W; DAB; Cowdrey, NAD; Rutledge, PA 1859-67; Graves Dictionary (Royal Academy 1869-79); Corcoran Gallery Cat., 74-107, with 19 repros. and chronology; Davidson, I, 292, 293, repros.; Spieler, "A noted artist in early Colorado; the story of Albert Bierstadt." More recently, see Campbell, New Hampshire Scenery, 8-13; Goetzmann and Goetzmann, 119-20; 145-160; 164-67; Peggy and Harold Samuels, 45-46; Hughes, Artists of California, 49; Blasdale, Artists of New Bedford, 40-42 (w/repros.); Muller, Paintings and Drawings at the Shelburne Museum, 29 (w/repro.); Fink, American Art at the Nineteenth-Century Paris Salons, 320; for an essay on his art materials, see A. Katlan American Artists Materials, Vol. II (Madison, CT: Sound View Press, p.515-25); Falk, Exh. Record Series.