The piece was inspired by his travels to the Yosemite Valley during the summer of 1863, a journey he embarked on with fellow artists Enoch Perry and Virgil Williams. Also accompanying them was journalist Fitz Ludlow.
The Mariposa Battalion first brought to light the Yosemite Valley. They discovered it while in pursuit to mollify the Ahwanichee Indians. Four years later, in 1855, after completion of two saddle animal trails, Bierstadt and his team were among the very first visitors of the valley. It's no wonder most of his paintings of the Yosemite Valley depict it as an untouched natural paradise, despite the thousands of tourists who later visited the valley. It is thought that his paintings were responsible for Americans' first view of the West. Several California painters soon followed suit, making Yosemite a subject of their paintings. However, Bierstadt's pieces were among the first to be released to the public.
Illustration & Technique
Looking Up Yosemite Valley is a magical representation of the uncontaminated valley in its purest form. In the forefront at the centre is a man and his horse, probably Albert himself. The man is creating an image of the Yosemite Valley that stands before him. An exploring party made up of men and their horses is on the left, some of whom are still straddled on, likely Albert's team that accompanied him to these trails.
The artist uses light and shadows to create depth and height, and to depict the grandiosity of Cathedral Rocks and El Capitan on the right and left, respectively. The use of silvery hue on the granite monument makes it come alive. This is enhanced by the magical bursts of sunlight that shines upon the cliffs in the background, giving them a silvery glow, and the grassy meadows in the foreground, giving them a goldish glow.
The shadows of the cliffs in the foreground are illustrated using darker pigments, giving a cool breeze feel. In the centre at the back, surrounded by trees, is the Merced River. Next to the artist is a small pond. At the back right of the painting is Bridalveil Falls. The artist captures the purity of the water flowing with the strokes of his brush in a magical fashion.
Looking Up the Yosemite Valley can be found in Stockton, United States of America. It is currently in the custody of Haggin Museum and is located in the Hull Gallery.