Albert Bierstadt (1830–1902) rivaled Frederic Church as the foremost painter of landscape spectacles in the mid- to late 19th century. Bierstadt’s views of the Rocky Mountains and the Yosemite Valley defined the West for Americans who would never otherwise have seen it. His Yosemite Valley, Glacier Point Trail of about 1873 depicts wildness and grandeur, but it was also composed to make a statement about possession and tourism. Generously sponsored by the Martin A. Ryerson Lectureship Fund.
About the series:
A number of paintings on view in the Yale University Art Gallery’s newly reinstalled American paintings and sculpture galleries are apt to incite curiosity about the artists’ chosen subjects. What was special about a particular view? What did the painter actually see, and from what viewpoint? While credible-looking paintings, particularly landscapes, are often assumed to be accurate, the artist has frequently manipulated observable reality for effect by exaggerating, rearranging, interpolating, or inventing. In each lecture in this series, John Walsh selects an American painting in the Gallery’s collection and examines the similarities and differences between depiction and reality, returning to the painter’s original vantage point in an attempt to work out just what happened when he returned to the studio.
How much imagery did these artists borrow from others? How often did they modify what they saw, and for what purposes? Romantic literature and art in Britain and on the Continent helped to shape the attitudes toward nature held by 19th-century American artists and their patrons, for whom national self-regard and expansionist beliefs were important factors. In the 20th century, new enthusiasms and anxieties suggested newer points of view—both literal and figurative—to artists, who found fresh ways to express their relationship to the world around them.
Generously sponsored by the Martin A. Ryerson Lectureship Fund.