Kern's River Valley, California 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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Albert Bierstadt's landscapes are synonymous for their 'rule of thirds' and structure depicting ruggedness alongside serenity and humanity. Kern's River Valley, California, painted in 1871 is no stranger to his iconic style bringing many aspects of nature to life using his famous luminism style.

Using oil on canvas, this particular western landscape of Sierra Nevada, has various points that cleverly draw the viewers eye towards. In the background a muted, rocky terrain is illuminated by the brightness of the rising sun thus emphasising the jagged rock faces which loom ominously in the distance. These vast structures take on an almost lilac hew. Tall trees to the centre left of this artwork frame the scene beautifully showing light dappling on the vibrant leaves. This then leads you through to the denser darkness of the forest where sturdy barked trunks jut upwards with their dark leaved branches feeling out.

The river meanders gracefully through this vast canyon and Bierstadt shows where the river is at its deepest. The water runs quicker through the centre and moves out to the calmer, shallower edges using a multitude of white, blue and green oils to emphasis the movement of water and the reflection of the surrounding countryside. A cluster of bare branches protrude eastwardly from the depths diverting the river very slightly around their skeleton form. At the forefront of the painting three horses and their riders rest from the heat of the day breaking up the natural beauty of this tranquil landscape.

Two of the horses bathe their weary hoofs in the shallows of the shoreline and drink from this fresh water pool. The cream horse is saddled with luggage whilst the brown to its left carries its passenger. Bottom left a vibrant patch of green grass illuminates this area of the painting and settled under a nearby tree another horse rests while his rider looks out to the serenity before him. He appears to be sketching or reading a book. The horsemen and their steed show off the magnitude of the scenery in this stunning valley whilst bring a very small human touch.

Bierstadt was a pioneer for these landscapes and as an intrepid explorer brought these scenes of grandeur back to the American people where they obtained a first sighting of what the real wild west was like. Yosemite and Yellowstone were also places of interest for the artist to explore and interpret onto canvas. This impressive piece stands at a length of 132cm and a height of 90cm and is not in the public domain for viewing as is privately owned.