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American, 1830 - 1902
The Sierras Near Lake Tahoe, California, 1865
Oil on panel
14 15/16 x 21 1/16 in. (38 x 53.5 cm), without frame
Clara and Edwin Strasenburgh Fund and Marion Stratton Gould Fund, 92.78
Not currently on view
Director Emeritus Grant Holcomb speaks about The Sierras Near Lake Tahoe, California
Born in Germany, Albert Bierstadt became the most successful, famous and arguably the best painter of the American west in the 19th century. If Walt Whitman celebrated the western landscape in his poetry, so, too, did Bierstadt in his paintings of the Rocky Mountains, Yosemite Valley and the Sierra Nevada Mountains---paintings that helped initiate the legislation that later established our National Parks system.
Bierstadt made two trips west (one in 1859, the other in 1863), and each time he went with survey expeditions on the overland wagon routes. There he painted what he considered to be the finest landscape views found anywhere in the entire world. He wrote: "Nowhere. is there scenery whose grandeur for one moment can be compared to that of the Sierra Madre in the Yosemite district."
The Sierras Near Lake Tahoe has a freshness and an immediacy often lacking in the artist's larger, melodramatic, western pictures. Though small by comparison to those "acres of canvas", the Gallery painting fully captures the vastness, the plentitude and sense of astonishment that immediately captivated the artist. Fertile valleys, ancient trees and sublime mountain ranges reflected 19th century religious values (America as a new Eden, for example) as well as nationalistic pride.