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Analysis of Albert Bierstadt’s “The Rocky Mountains, Lander’s Peak” Essay

The mountains of endless boundaries transcended the earth to the heavens as the water and sun created its tangibility. Dispositions of light allowed an elaborate portrayal of the perfect environment. Albert Bierstadt, a German-born, American artist, had the ability to convey such beauties of nature and its landscape through his paintings. In 1863, through a premier in the “New York Sanity Fair”, his painting, “The Rocky Mountains, Lander’s Peak”, provided a different outlook on the American West. As a region styled artist, Bierstadt utilized oil-based paint on canvas in such a way that permitted his audience to not only see nature, but to feel it as well.

The variation of colors he used created an outstanding display of nature that I never thought possible. I believe his purpose was to create imagery, an illusion to the audience, as if they were looking into the American West, through his painting. The entity of light was the key element of this painting. The form of a fine white line amid a mass of water allowed the separation of the earth and the heavens. What is intriguing about the painting is that as quickly as the earth and heaves were separated, the two joined once again at the same location. The reflection of the lake elaborated on the purity of the water and the richness of life. The contrast of dark and light colors served a great importance in his painting.

Bierstadt created the perfect gradient of dark to light colors from opposite ends of his painting. Established on land, the hue of darkness swept into the lake, but the color was only to be amplified by the light created from the sky. This line amid the water plays a powerful role in the painting where the two opposites meet to form a single, unified harmony of colors in the middle. The disposition of the rays emitted by the sun, asserted a sense of depth as well as texture to the painting. Though the mountains created were of the same height, it was the existence of light that created saturation of each color. With the saturation of each color, a sense of depth and texture would be added to the painting.

Toward the bottom of the painting, Bierstadt had drawn a tribe of Indians that had settled on the land as a further depiction of the American West. He exploited several elements of the painting through the Native Americans. ItĀ gave the painting an identity by showing to the public that there are actual people situated there and the area was more than just a home, it was a lifestyle.

The variation in value of green and brown created from the land, trees and the clothes of the Native Americans became a lighter tone as it reached the lake. It was advanced further as the color transcended across the white line of the lake into an even lighter tone of the two colors and an introduction of a new one, blue. The blue served its own purpose as an unimaginable distance. It was the rest of the mountains amongst the smaller ones that the Native Americans were living in. Some Native Americans were situated next to the lake, and again it provided an idea of depth in the painting.

I felt like I was looking through the eyes of Albert Bierstadt, well over a century ago. I saw what he saw, and it made me wonder what existed pass the waterfall. I could feel that the air was pure and I could hear the serenity through the sound of water. I’m most curious about what lied in between the mountains that reached the sky and the ones that were most reachable. I have come to believe Bierstadt was more than an innovative painter, but an intelligent scholar as well. Something must have perplexed him to become a regional painter during his time. It wasn’t a common style of painting but he urged onward anyways. He utilized the contrast of light and dark so beautifully, that created more than an explicit visual, but a mental escapade from reality.


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