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  • Albert Bierstadt
    Jan 7, 1830 - Feb 18, 1902
  • Rocky Mountain Waterfall - Albert Bierstadt was a German-American painter best known for his lavish, sweeping landscapes of the American West. To paint the scenes, Bierstadt joined several journeys of the Westward Expansion. Though not the first artist to record these sites, Bierstadt was the foremost painter of these scenes for the remainder of the 19th century.
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Rocky Mountain Waterfall
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  • Rocky Mountain Waterfall

  • Albert Bierstadt
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  • 1898
    Oil on canvas
    152.4 cm (60 in.) x 96.52 cm (38 in.)
    Private collection.

    In Rocky Mountain Waterfall, Bierstadt captures the craggy gorge and cascading falls in stunning detail, presenting the astonishing power of the Western mountain range. With careful detail he adeptly renders the soggy moss growing on the rocks and surrounding lush greenery. A subtle mist rises off of the falls, enriching the scene with an atmospheric effect that one could only draw from personal observation. Bierstadt employs evergreen trees to establish depth and frame the scene. A fallen tree, uprooted, in the left foreground extends outside of the composition's edge suggesting a bridge to another territory beyond the painting's scope. As with many of Bierstadt's large scale compositions, Rocky Mountain Waterfall does not relate to a specific location; rather, it draws from scenes which he had visited in his early trips out West. "He did not hesitate...to rearrange the scenery or introduce additional elements for pictorial effect. The theatrical light, turbulent skies and monumental granite cliffs were meant to impress the viewer with the grandeur of the western wilderness."

    A romantic vision of the vigorous, untamed landscape, the present work pays homage to Bierstadt's cherished memories of his journeys in the western wilderness. As Gordon Hendricks writes, "In 1898 the artist was no longer given to scrambling among precipitous rocks in the pursuit of new vistas. Comfortable in the wealth of his new wife--the stepmother of Isabella Stewart Gardner and a millionairess--he spent sedate hours in his studio or, when he travelled, stayed at quiet resort hotels, such as those in Newport, Long Branch, New Jersey, or Switzerland. He was nostalgic for the 'wonderful old mountains' of his younger, Western days, and in this painting gives us a glimpse of the Lander's Peak profile of his great Rocky Mountains of 1863. Rocky Mountain Waterfall was evidently constructed from studies of earlier Western trips to the Sierras, Rockies and, perhaps, the Cascades."

    In Rocky Mountain Waterfall Bierstadt masterfully captures the splendor of the vigorous landscape while imbuing the canvas with a celestial light conveying the sublimity of the natural world. The rising mist from the stream adds an element of spirituality and a touch of sentimentality as the artist recalls with his brush the grandeur of the West. "Bierstadt's paintings characteristically transport their viewers vicariously to far-away locations where the geography is magnificent, the air thunderously tempestuous or perpetually pristine, or both, and the flora and fauna fecund...Certain of those places are, or are for the most part, topographically specific...Others, including some of the artist's favored compositions...are his own studio creations. At his best, Bierstadt was a skillful, compelling magician with palette and paintbrush." Transformed by memory and imagination, Rocky Mountain Waterfall reflects Bierstadt's admiration for the heroic peaks of the West and longing for his days on the frontier.

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Average Rating: stars Currently rated 5.00, based on 1 reviews.
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  • stars
  • from United States.
  • Hello,
    We received the painting yesterday and are VERY pleased how it turned out!! It’s beautiful, the colors are very tasteful and the waterfall effect really stands out.
    Thank you for such a positive experience from start to finish!!

Other paintings by Albert Bierstadt:

Sunset over the River
Sunset over the River
The Matterhorn
The Matterhorn
Yosemite Valley 2
Yosemite Valley 2
Evening on Oneida Lake
Evening on Oneida Lake
Albert BierstadtAlbert Bierstadt was one finest artist to portray the grandeur of the Rocky Mountains. The paintings by Albert Bierstadt were often oversized, highly colorful and portrayed the immense distances and scale of the American West. His use of vivid colors and inspiring scenery have made Albert Bierstadt one of the most popular artists of the American West and made him the most popular artist of the 1870's.

Albert Bierstadt was born near Dusseldorf in 1830. His family moved to Massachusetts two years later. Despite prodding from his family to not become an artist, Albert Bierstadt persisted and produced his first oil painting at the age of 21.

In 1853, Albert Bierstadt returned to Dusseldorf in Germany for three years, where he studied art intensely. Traveling widely over Europe, Albert Bierstadt produced sketches and drawings of the Alps. By the time he returned to the United States in 1857, Albert Bierstadt had gained a tremendous amount of experience in landscape paintings, sketches and drawings.

He made his first trip west in 1859, accompanying a government expedition led by Frederic Lander. The purpose of the expedition, which was to travel all the way to California, was to improve the mountain passes of the trails. The expedition followed the Oregon Trail, providing Albert Bierstadt with first hand knowledge of the events that played out along this historic and scenic trail. He met many emigrants returning east who were unable to find their riches in the Colorado gold strikes, and met others who joined their party on their trek west. His observations of the overland migration became some of the most fruitful sources of ideas for future artwork by Albert Bierstadt.

As the expedition reached the mountains, Albert Bierstadt became much taken in with their beauty. He was also intrigued by the Indians, and unlike most other Americans during that time period, did not consider them ruthless savages. Despite his upbringing in the east, he found he also enjoyed camp life. The wide variety of wildlife he encountered, along with the beautiful scenery and historic events that were unfolding, would be of invaluable importance for his future paintings.

Following this trip, Albert Bierstadt returned east and began to produce some of his most spectacular paintings. Believing that the beauty of the Rocky Mountains could not be captured on a small oil paint, he paintings were produced on large, often over-sized, canvasses. His beautiful and famous print, The Rocky Mountains, was on a canvas measuring over sixty square feet.

The paintings by Albert Bierstadt became very popular with the American public. Their large size, their beautiful use of colors as well as attention to details in the foreground all combined to make the paintings by Albert Bierstadt highly prized.

In 1863, Albert Bierstadt once again ventured westward, this time beyond the Sierra Nevada. Later in the 1860's, Albert Bierstadt returned to Colorado and spent several years painting the beautiful mountains and landscapes that are found there. In fact, he became so well liked in Colorado and his prints so well known that they named a mountain after him - Mount Bierstadt - which stands along the Front Range near Mount Evans. A beautiful alpine lake in Rocky Mountain National Park was also named after him.

The 1870's saw the height of popularity for Albert Bierstadt. His works were highly sought after and graced many a wall in museums in both the United States and around the world. He also created two historical paintings for the US Capitol Building.

The popularity of Albert Bierstadt among the art crowd began to wane in the 1890's, although his prints will still highly prized. Albert Bierstadt died in 1902.