born Jan. 7, 1830, near Düsseldorf, Westphalia [Germany]
died Feb. 19, 1902, New York, N.Y., U.S.
American artist who painted landscapes and whose tremendous popularity
was based on his panoramic scenes of the American West. Among the last
generation of painters associated with the Hudson River school,
Bierstadt, like Frederick Church and Thomas Moran, covered vast
distances in search of more exotic subject matter. His reputation was
made by the huge canvases that resulted from his several trips to the
Far West—e.g., “The Rocky Mountains” (1863; Metropolitan Museum of Art,
New York City) and “Mount Corcoran” (c. 1875–77; Corcoran Gallery of
Art, Washington, D.C.). Executed in his studio in New York, the large
works do not have the freshness and spontaneity of the small on-the-spot
paintings from which they were produced. They are, however, immense in
scale and grandiose in effect. Bierstadt freely altered details of
landscape to create the effect of awe and grandeur. His colours were
applied more according to a formula than from observation: luscious,
green vegetation, ice-blue water, and pale, atmospheric blue-greenmountains.
The progression from foreground to background was often a dramatic one
without the softness and subtlety of a middle distance.