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collections > permanent collection > paintings >ALBERT BIERSTADT
Albert Bierstadt
(American, b. Germany, 1830-1902)
Lake Tahoe,  n.d., c. 1860-1870s
Oil on paper mounted on board, 10" x 15"
Gift of the Frank and Margaret Sullivan Fund


Albert Bierstadt’s gigantic exhibition paintings combine encyclopedic detail with panoramic vistas that celebrate the seemingly limitless expanses of the Far West.  Railroad magnates and other tycoons vied for the prestige of owning such works, and at one time, Bierstadt was America’s most highly-paid artist.  Smaller works such as the Museum’s Lake Tahoe were painted alongside the larger compositions, and while Bierstadt placed relatively little emphasis on them, they are prized today for their freer and more spontaneous handling.


Bierstadt was born in Solingen, Germany, and immigrated with his family to the United States in 1832.  While growing up in New Bedford, Massachusetts, Bierstadt learned to paint, and later taught lessons to local students.  In 1855, he returned to his native country to study painting at the Dusseldorf Academy, where he developed the meticulously finished style that characterizes his mature work.  Returning after two years, the artist painted and exhibited his work before joining the Pacific Coast Railway Survey in 1859.  As one of the first trained painters to bring back images of the Rocky Mountain country, Bierstadt attracted attention almost immediately.  He afterwards made a number of trips to the West, traveling to Yosemite, Yellowstone, and (late in his career), Alaska.  As tastes in art shifted during the 1870s, Bierstadt fell out of favor; yet he traveled and painted almost until his death in 1902.  After the Second World War, Bierstadt’s oeuvre was reassessed, and at present the artist is regarded as a major figure of the Hudson River School.