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The Rocky Mountains: Bierstadt, 1866

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  • Title: The Rocky Mountains 
  • Author: Engraved by J. Smillie after Albert Bierstadt  
  • Date: 1866
  • Medium: Steel engraving 
  • Condition: Good, age toning, expertly reinstated paper in margins with one fill underneath left of image in line with title, abrasive material on verso likely used to reinforce the paper not affecting image
  • Inches: 35 1/4 x 26 1/4 [Paper]
  • Centimeters: 89.53 x 66.7 [Paper]
  • Product ID: 308077

Engraved by J. Smillie after German-born Albert Bierstadt

Albert Bierstadt was a German-American painter born in Solingen, Prussia in 1830. When he was just one year old, Bierstadt immigrated with his parents to the United States where they landed in New Bedford, Connecticut. Bierstadt eventually returned to Germany where he studied painting in Dusseldorf for several years and in 1858, back stateside, he exhibited a large Swiss landscape at the National Academy of Design in New York City. This garnered him positive attention and an honorary membership in the academy. Part of the famed Hudson River School, Bierstadt painted scenes in New England as well as upstate New York and the Hudson River Valley.

 Albert Bierstadt’s works played an outsized role in shaping the visual identity of the American West in the United States and abroad. In early 1859 he accompanied a government survey expedition, headed by Frederick W. Lander, to the Nebraska Territory. By summer, the party had reached the Wind River Range of the Rocky Mountains in present-day Wyoming.

Painted in New York after Bierstadt’s return from these travels, this work advertised the landscape as a frontier destined to be claimed by white settlers, according to the doctrine of Manifest Destiny. Publicly exhibited to great acclaim, this monumental painting established Bierstadt as a key competitor of the preeminent landscape painter, Frederic Edwin Church. It was purchased in 1865 for the then-astounding sum of $25,000 by James McHenry, an American living in London. Bierstadt later bought it back and gave or sold it to his brother Edward.