Nevada Falls, 1863-1883
Albert Bierstadt (American, b. Germany, 1830-1902)
Oil on panel, 43 x 28 in.
Museum purchase with assistance from Mr. and Mrs. James A. Reynolds, 76.79
Albert Bierstadt was born in Germany and immigrated to New Bedford, Mass. as an infant. Like most artists of his time, Bierstadt traveled to Europe for his artistic training, choosing to return to his native country for training at the prestigious Düsseldorf Academy. After two years of classes and a grand tour through Italy and Switzerland, Bierstadt established a studio in New York City. Soon after his arrival, he became associated with the Hudson River School, America's first true artistic fraternity.
The Hudson River School was a group of New York City-based landscape painters that emerged around 1850 under the influence of the English émigré Thomas Cole (1801-1848) and enjoyed vast critical and public acclaim for almost 50 years. The style was one of extreme patriotism and magnificent portrayals of the natural beauty found in the United States. Bierstadt and Frederic Edwin Church (1826-1900) emerged as the members of exceptional talent. However, by the time of the American Centennial, the Hudson River School style fell out of favor with the rise of the softer, more intimate style of landscape painting fashioned under French influences.
Bierstadt specialized in depicting the grandiose and awesome mountain scenery of the American West, as seen in the Everson's Nevada Falls. The artist painted with such naturalism that even in this medium-sized painting, the viewer can almost feel the mist from the water cascading down the gigantic 594-foot waterfall. As with most of his paintings, this work was executed in his New York City studio from oil sketches painted while exploring Yosemite Valley. Bierstadt was intimately familiar with his landscape paintings. His first trip West, in 1859, was on horseback with an army exploration expedition to the Rocky Mountains. On three later occasions between 1863 and 1873, he traveled through the newly discovered Yosemite Valley, among numerous other travels throughout North America and Europe. During all of his journeys, Bierstadt created countless oil sketches of nature's splendors and spiritual power that would eventually become either topographical or mythical renderings of the American west. Today, the artist's oil sketches are considered to be just as important and aesthetically pleasing as his finished paintings.