The Significance of Bierstadt’s Mountain Lake

Bierstadt’s Mountain Lake  pic In 1863, German-born landscape painter Albert Bierstadt spent part of his summer at the foot of Colorado’s Mount Evans. There, he created one of his most stunning and accomplished naturalistic works, Mountain Lake. Trained in the plein air technique at the Düsseldorf Academy, Bierstadt painted Mountain Lake as an oil sketch depicting both rugged grandeur and quiet beauty. The sketch became, in his New York studio, the basis for his sweeping canvas titled Storm in the Rocky Mountains – Mount Rosalie. Mountain Lake was the first Bierstadt work acquired by the Denver Art Museum to portray a Colorado scene.

Albert Bierstadt spent his childhood in Massachusetts after immigrating to the United States with his parents. A self-taught artist as a young man, Bierstadt spent time in Europe seeking formal instruction and touring Switzerland, Germany, and Italy, which helped him refine and polish his technical skills. After his return to the United States, he joined a party of surveyors headed for the Rocky Mountains, where his experience in rendering Alpine landscapes made him an ideal visual chronicler of the opening of the West to European-Americans. The trip would be one of several he would make to the western part of the country, after which he would return to New York to expand on his sketches and cultivate his growing reputation in the artistic world.

Bierstadt worked from his field studies and plein air paintings to create large-scale canvases, such as Storm in the Rocky Mountains – Mount Rosalie and Estes Park, which fetched handsome prices. These works, influenced by the current of romanticism then prevalent in landscape painting, were later reproduced on a smaller scale for purchase by the public.

Fans of Bierstadt’s work should not miss a trip to the Denver Art Museum. Additional holdings by the artist in its western collections include a large early work, Wind River Country, which depicts the area around the Sweetwater River in Wyoming, near the mountain now known as Temple Peak.

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