About this Artwork
Bierstadt was inspired to paint Yosemite after seeing Carleton Watkins’s photographs in a New York gallery in 1862. He based his composition on Watkins’s view of Yosemite Falls. Both artists captured the magnificent topography of Yosemite, which became associated with California’s entry into the Union as a free state in 1850. In 1864, the year Bierstadt painted this view, President Abraham Lincoln set aside Yosemite as a protected reserve, in recognition of the enduring power of American landscapes to serve as symbols of the nation’s cultural aspirations.