Monday, March 12, 2018

"A Breath of Fresh Air"

12 x 12"
oil on panel

I once stepped into a gallery in the Smithsonian American Art Museum that had four or five or six, I can't remember how many, grandious landscapes by Albert Bierstadt.  It was crowded with patrons and you could hear a pin drop.

That is exactly what Albert Bierstadt strived for - the awe and amazement from the viewer.  Bierstadt was a showman.  A self-promotor.  He held theatrical events, sold tickets and presented his newest masterpiece by unveiling it from behind a curtain - with dramatic lighting - followed with a tall tale of his explorations in the West and how he came upon this very scene.  One critic described him as the 'vast machinery of advertisement and puffery'.

Bierstadt's paintings were wildly popular and commanded high prices during the time of 1860's - 70's.  People had a thirst for images of the frontier - especially people who lived abroad and had never seen anything like it.

In 1862, Bierstadt's studio was destroyed by a fire, including many of his paintings.  He struggled financially, as the demand for these massive landscape paintings waned - replaced during the Gilded Age with portraits of prominent tycoons and their family members.  Interest in his work was reborn in the 1960's and thanks to his prolific life as an artist, there are hundreds of paintings held by museums around the world.

Please click here for a larger view.

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