Alaskan Coast Range Albert Bierstadt Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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In 1889, Bierstadt found himself shipwrecked as he took a steamship through British Columbia to Alaska and as a result had to take refuge in a nearby Native American settlement. It was during this time that he is thought to have made his sketches that would become the work, Alaskan Coast Range, which is painted in oils.

Albert Bierstadt is considered one of the foremost painters of the American West and is also part of the Rocky Mountain School of painters. Of Prussian descent, he captured the vast range of sweeping American vistas like none other.

Albert Bierstadt's works are incredibly meticulous. His quest across the American West as part of the Westward Expansion meant that he was able to paint what he saw, which is evident by the level of detail in his works. There is a great emphasis on the importance of nature and as in the work Alaskan Coast Range, there is heavy focus on the reflections of the range in the water and the gentle moving clouds of the sky. This movability of nature makes the painting come alive and creates a feeling of awe at the vastness of such a spectacle of nature.

Romanticism and luminism greatly characterise the artist's work. His use of light in the landscapes creates depth and perspective, creating an almost photographic effect. The composition of the paintings emphasises structure, with most given a horizontal eye line. The focus is on the scene, not on the artist himself, which was a common characterisation of the period. Indeed, works by Bierstadt's contemporaries, such as Fitz Henry Lane or Martin Johnson Heade, all look much alike.

Bierstadt did not just paint American panoramas however and during the American Civil War, he was briefly drafted and painting some of his wartime experiences. He was also granted a reception with Queen Victoria on a trip to London, who wished to privately view his works. At the height of his career, Bierstadt had become famous for his Westward Expedition paintings, especially his works of Yosemite Valley, and as a result was in a high demand by explorers wanting to commission him to record their trips.

Despite the popular nature of his works, some criticised his overt romanticism and felt his depictions were an unnecessary exaggeration of reality and rather too theatrical in tone. His popularity had waned by the end of his life but found a resurgence in the 1960s after a small exhibition of some of his oil works were displayed. This brought with it a renewed interest in the artist. For those wishing to see Alaskan Coast Range, the Bierstadt painting currently hangs in the Smithsonian American Art Museum.