In celebration of the National Park Service Centennial in 2016, this exhibit highlights one museum object from Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park.
Frederick and Julia Billings acquired this painting for their home in Woodstock in 1870, the same year it was painted. In her diary entry for October 30th of that year, Julia Billings noted “He [Frederick] brought from N.Y. a fine landscape by Bierstadt.”
Albert Bierstadt (1830-1902) was one of America’s best-known and most successful landscape painters and one of the most celebrated artists associated with the Hudson River School. Born in Germany and raised in New Bedford, Massachusetts, as a young art student he trained, studied, and traveled throughout Europe. In 1859 he made the first of several trips through the American West and in 1863 he saw Yosemite Valley for the first time. Yosemite subjects dominated Bierstadt’s painting activity after 1863 and his majestic paintings of the American West captivated audiences back east.
Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park, MABI 4162
Frederick Billings first traveled to Yosemite in 1852 and returned in 1865 and again in 1866. In 1860 he purchased and sent photographs of Yosemite Valley to influential eastern friends to make the case for its preservation. Landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted accompanied Billings during one of these trips. Olmsted worked tirelessly for Yosemite’s conservation and wrote a significant report, the first articulated statement of the duty of a democratic government to establish great public grounds for the free enjoyment of the people.
Written accounts, photographs, and landscape paintings like Cathedral Rock inspired pioneering environmental legislation to protect the region from commercial exploitation. Abraham Lincoln officially granted the Yosemite Valley to the state of California in 1864, creating the first public land trust in American history, and marking the beginning of the national park movement.
Park museum staff from Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park.
National Park Service, Museum Management Program Staff: Amber Dumler, Stephen Damm, Ron Wilson, and Joan Bacharach