Albert Bierstadt

born Solingen, Germany 1830-died New York City 1902
Media - bierstadt_albert.jpg - 89927
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Solingen, Germany
New York, New York, United States
Active in
  • California, United States
  • Irvington, New York, United States

Born in Germany. Immigrated to the United States as a child. Paintings show an idealistic view of the American wilderness.

Nora Panzer, ed. Celebrate America in Poetry and Art (New York and Washington, D.C.: Hyperion Paperbacks for Children in association with the National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, 1994)

Artist Biography

Bierstadt and his family left Germany when he was two years old. With early ambitions to become a painter, he taught drawing in New Bedford, Massachusetts, then in 1853 returned to Germany, where he shared studio space in Dusseldorf with Emanuel Leutze and Worthington Whittredge. On his first trip to the West in 1859 Bierstadt traveled from Saint Joseph, Missouri, to the Wind River Mountains with Colonel Frederick W. Landers's Honey Road Survey. In 1860 he exhibited Base of the Rocky Mountains (unlocated) at the National Academy of Design. In 1863 he traveled to San Francisco and on to Yosemite. Highly regarded by local patrons and painters, his work commanded top prices. In 1871 he returned to California, where he stayed two years, painting views of the Sierra Nevada, including Yosemite. Through the mid-1880s he traveled in the West as well as to Nassau and Europe. His last trip west was in 1889. Changing tastes in the 1880s brought a decline in the popularity of his art, and he narrowly avoided bankruptcy in 1895.


Nancy Anderson and Linda Ferber, Albert Bierstadt: Art & Enterprise (New York: Hudson Hills for the Brooklyn Museum, 1991); Hendricks, Bierstadt.

William Truettner, ed The West as America: Reinterpreting Images of the Frontier, 1820–1920 (Washington, D.C. and London: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1991)

Luce Artist Biography

Albert Bierstadt was one of the first painters to capture the grandeur of the American West. His family emigrated from Germany in 1832 and settled in New Bedford, Massachusetts. He traveled to Wyoming, California, and Oregon, and turned his New York studio into a museum where people could see his paintings amid a vast collection of animal skins and Native American artifacts. Bierstadt’s “great pictures” show sweeping vistas of Yosemite and the Sierra Nevada, proving that America’s natural wonders rivaled the great ruins of Europe. His popularity declined toward the end of his life, however, and despite many attempts to sell his paintings to Congress, he narrowly avoided bankruptcy in 1895. (Anderson and Ferber, Albert Bierstadt: Art and Enterprise, 1990)


An oil on canvas of a man lifting a curtain into his museum
The Great American Hall of Wonders
July 14, 2011January 8, 2012
The exhibition The Great American Hall of Wonders examines the nineteenth-century American belief that the people of the United States shared a special genius for innovation.
A painting of a bridge made from nature.
Alexander von Humboldt and the United States: Art, Nature, and Culture
May 14, 2021July 11, 2021
The groundbreaking exhibition Alexander von Humboldt and the United States: Art, Nature, and Culture reveals how the influential naturalist and explorer Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) shaped American perceptions of nature and the way American

Related Books

Lure of the West: Treasures from the Smithsonian American Art Museum
Lure of the West: Treasures from the Smithsonian American Art Museum commemorates Treasures to Go, a series of eight exhibitions from the Smithsonian American Art Museum, touring the nation through 2002. The Principal Financial Group is a proud partner in presenting these treasures to the American people.
The Great American Hall of Wonders
The Great American Hall of Wonders is a vividly illustrated survey of the American ingenuity that energized all aspects of nineteenth-century society, from the painting of landscapes and scenes of everyday life to the planning of scientific expedition and the development of new mechanical devices. Each chapter comprises an essay and a selection from more than 120 illustrations. These include works by pre-eminent painters Winslow Homer, Albert Bierstadt, Frederic Church and Thomas Cole.