Bierstadt once wrote of Yosemite, “We are now in the Garden of Eden...the most magnificent place I was ever in.” Time and again, he painted Yosemite’s vast valleys and towering mountains to public acclaim. In response to Bierstadt’s rendering of the valley floor’s golden light, one critic remarked, “It looks as if it was painted in an Eldorado, in a distant land of gold; heard of in song and story; dreamed of but never seen. Yet it is real.”
Artists were among the first to promote Yosemite’s splendor. Their romantic representations contributed to public sentiment that America’s natural resources should remain pristine for future generations, prompting the federal government to set aside land for preservation for the first time.