Bierstadt created one of his largest and most beautiful works in 1968 and this work is known as “Among the Sierra Nevada, California.” Bierstadt, being the traveler he was, was one of the biggest purveyors of exploring the western mountains and within this oil on canvas portrait, Beirstadt creates a construct or a union, of the most beautiful characteristic features of you will see within the Sierra Nevada’s. He created the American ideal for what our scenery ought t be.
Bierstadt created this painting in Rome and then it traveled through Europe making its way to America. Folks in Europe and even on the Eastern coast of the US, saw Bierstadt’s paintings and actually believed this is what the western mountains look like. Bierstadt did get criticism however as he was told his image of the river within this painting is all wrong as it is not typographically correct. At the same instance however, Bierstadt was praised for showing all the resources the west had to offer such as game, lumber, fishing, water, gold, etc. People saw the west as a majestic place as they could not get there but Bierstadt’s travels allowed them to be there in a sense when he would create these masterpieces.
The highest peaks seem hazy and far away as though they are in the heavens, however their snowy caps supply the water to the river below. The river glimmers in the sun and is portrayed as very clean water, glacial type water. The water also supports many animals and marine life as the gather to drink, swim and hunt. The forests and water supply are bountiful within this picture.
I feel Bierstadt uses his classic renaissance training when he painted this as it almost seems similar to the portraits of god we see. The sun breaking through the clouds casting majestic rays upon the life and rock below seems almost holy or other worldly. It is very god like and very powerful. The use of color and shadows to create a sense of light is astonishing. When you look at this painting it seems so much is unexplored in the mountains yet everything you need is in the valley thanks to the mountains. Too me this almost represents the circle of life and shows there is a place for humans here, however the forest shall remain untouched. This is one of the few places that has not been pillaged by machines and greedy corporations tearing out all the trees and extinguishing life as we know it, making species extinct. This is god’s country, the American Dream. Bierstadt captured it best in my eyes. I’ve seen these mountains many a time in person as everyone should. After visiting the Sierra Nevada’s take a look at Bierstadt’s paintings once again. It’s impossible to not feel the emotion you felt when you first saw these mountains. I can only imagine what folks in Europe in the late 1800’s felt when seeing such a majestic sight. It’s hard to believe only a few were able to travel and see this wonderful world we live in.