(b. 1830, Solingen, d. 1902, New York)

Yosemite Valley at Sunset

Oil on cardboard, 30 x 49 cm
Private collection

Albert Bierstadt, a native of Germany, stood in the tradition of the Hudson River School, founded by the English-born Thomas Cole, which marked the beginning of a genuinely American landscape painting. He discovered the American wilderness for art, applying these means in the tradition of Claude Lorrain. In 1863, Bierstadt and the writer Fritz Hugh Ludlow set off on an expedition to the Wild West, which took them thousands of miles through the dramatic scenery of Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, California, and Oregon. The artist captured these impressions in a series of large-format panoramas that made him the founder of the Rocky Mountain School.

Yosemite Valley at Sunset was a preliminary study for one of these large paintings. As dramatic as the area is in reality, Bierstadt heightened it still further, plunging the scene into a veritably mythical illumination. Bierstadt's views and the stereoscopic photographs his two brothers made of the Yosemite Mountains contributed to the declaration of the area as a national park.