The artist incorporates a fairly standard use of composition here, with content sweeping in from the right in the foreground, but an opening allows us to view far into the distance from the left hand side of the painting. The nearer elements are therefore given bolder tones in order to reinforce this sense of perspective, and the hills at the very far back are delivered in much more subtle tones. Bierstadt was a master of capturing surfaces of different materials accurately and in this case we find boulders lying around, with elements of light and other parts of the beach lying upon some of them. There are also grasses dotted about which produce tones of green against the yellow sand. Shading is used on the right hand side, as tall rocks balance the vertical in that part of the composition, whilst also providing an interesting contrast with the lighter parts of the painting found elsewhere.

There is a suggestion of activity from the waves breaking against the shore line, but generally speaking this is a fairly relaxed artwork, well away from some of the more dramatic scenes that the artist produced elsewhere in his career. He was influenced by several German artists who would provide activity and drama within their paintings, but often Bierstadt liked to deliver a more calm atmosphere in which the landscape or seascape could be appreciated without any need for great activity. Other examples of this might be in how he focused on canoeists making their way slowly across a large expanse of water, or other figures perhaps walking through an open expanse of land. He would tend to make humanity a supporting element, which underlined his love and passion for the environment, seeing it as under threat potentially in the future.

Where is the Bay of Monterey?

The Bay of Monterey lies on the coast of California as part of the Pacific Ocean. Monterey Peninsula can be found at the south point of the bay and this is a well known spot for tourism today. The artist would exhaust this state for its natural beauty many times throughout his career, but he did also feature many parts of the US across his lifetime, as well as travelling to Europe and Canada at various points. He always desired new ideas and content for his work, aware that producing much the same each time would eventually lose him favour with the public who all wanted their own favourite destinations featured by this popular painter. He was also best known for tall mountain scenes, but regularly focused on the coast too.

Bay of Monterey in Detail Albert Bierstadt