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Albert Bierstadt - Emigrant's Crossing the Plains -  Published by the Greenwich Workshop

"Emigrants Crossing the Plains" by Albert Bierstadt

Retail Price: $495.00

Artist Proof Edition 50

Size: 36 x 22

Redefined by territorial expansion in the mid-1800s, the boundary of the American West shifted from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean, fueled largely by exploration and emigration along the Oregon Trail, among others. Over the course of fifty years, almost 400,000 people traveled the 2,170-mile route, leaving their farms along the East Coast in hopes of securing fertile land in the Oregon Territory. American artist Albert Bierstadt documented his journey on the trail, capturing the dramatic panoramas and indomitable spirit of the emigrants on his oversized canvases. With their rich colors and pristine details, these romanticized images roused an already fascinated American public to begin their own westward adventure.

About the Artist

ed_em_bierBorn in Solingen, Germany, on January 7, 1830, Albert Bierstadt immigrated with his family to New Bedford, Massachusetts, at the age of two. Throughout his youth, Bierstadt expressed an interest in art and by the age of 20 had established his artistic career, supporting himself through teaching. In 1851 he held his first exhibition, drawing the attention of art collectors in New Bedford.

Even though his family was poor and did not initially endorse his decision to be an artist, they supported his return to Germany in 1853 to study at the distinguished Düsseldorf Academy. There, Bierstadt worked intensively for four years, traveling throughout Europe and preparing sketches, drawings, and paintings of the Alpine mountain ranges, fueling his fascination with the majestic American topography.

Upon his return to the United States, Bierstadt arranged an exhibition in New Bedford that included works by major artists, as well as fifteen of his own paintings. In addition, the artist had his first showing at the National Academy of Design in New York City. This 1858 display validated Bierstadt’s artistic career, bringing widespread acclaim for his work and strengthening his influence on 19th Century American landscape painting.

About the Artwork

In 1859 Bierstadt made the first of many trips west, joining a survey expedition led by Colonel Frederick William Lander that followed the Oregon Trail to California. Along with the Lander party, Bierstadt traveled through Nebraska and into Wyoming Territory. Overcome by the beauty of his surroundings, Bierstadt left his place on the journey, deciding instead to explore and return home on his own.

While sketching the glorious peaks of the Rocky Mountains, Bierstadt was inspired to write a letter to the well-known artists’ publication The Crayon, proclaiming the mountains to rival the Alps in Europe. In addition, he expressed his enchantment with American Indians and the wildlife that he discovered. Of these, he took numerous photographs and made several sketches and oil studies that would later be incorporated into the grand-sized paintings created in his New York studio. This fantastic excursion spurred the young artist’s curiosity with North American landscape, a subject matter that would secure Bierstadt’s position as one of the premiere artists of the American West.

Intent on defining the expanse east of the Mississippi River for the American public, Bierstadt planned a second trip west, this time traveling with writer Fitz Hugh Ludlow. The pair set off on their journey in May of 1863. Along the way they encountered a wagon train of German emigrants just outside Fort Kearney, Nebraska.

Ludlow recounted this moment in his 1870 book The Heart of the Continent, describing the “picturesque party of Germans…[with] a large herd of cattle and fifty wagons…such a delight in form, color, and spirit.” Bierstadt, in turn, captured the moment pictorially with two separate paintings, Emigrants Crossing the Plains, completed on November 27, 1867, and The Oregon Trail, dating to 1869.

While the works are similar in subject matter, they differ in scale. Emigrants Crossing the Plains carries out Bierstadt’s tradition of oversized painting, reflecting the grandiose size and spectacle of the American West. In addition, the artist’s style captivates the viewer with a romanticized scene of his adventure along the Oregon Trail.

Emigrant's Crossing the Plains
by Albert Bierstadt

Image size: 36"w x 23"h.
$495.00

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Emigrant's Crossing the Plains

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