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This charming artwork by Albert Bierstadt holds a loose date of around 1880. We are not aware of its current location, suggesting that it is likely to remain within a private collection, and may have so since the artist first sold the piece.
There is much to appreciate in this piece but for those unfamiliar with the full oeuvre of this artist, it may come as a surprise to see this type of composition. Bierstadt was, after all, much more famous for his open landscapes in which the stunning countryside of the US would be laid out before your very eyes. In this example, Moose Hunters' Camp, Nova Scotia, the artist instead works from within a dense forest, focusing on a small section of land and giving a greater significance to humanity too. He was interested in the lives of ordinary people and would actually study them in detail, even though in other paintings they would be very small and really only there as a means to communicate scale and perspective. Here these hunters take centrestage and we can see an intimate moment during a long, challenging trip.
We do know that this artwork was completed using oils, though very little else. It is probable that Bierstadt actually sketched the scene whilst sat amongst this touring party and then later on produced the painting once he had returned home. He would carry sketchbooks on his person during these journeys in order to document different settings, though he would also use them for other notes too, such as planning out maps or other details important to his day. Many of these books have since been uncovered and documented in full, helping us to learn more about his working processes, which remained fairly consistent through the main part of his career. Moose Hunters' Camp, Nova Scotia features several figures sat by logs whilst a fire burns. A moose's head is strewn to the side, indicating the purpose of their visit.
Snow lies on the ground as the hunters attempt to keep warm. Wood is assembled into a triangle shape with a fire burning bright within. Tall trees shoot up to the sky at different angles, underlining the wild nature of this location. A small opening allows golden light to flood in from the background, with a lake also visible in the distance. Bierstadt marks white paint down the left hand side of many of the trunks, helping to indicate the direction of light and also to indicate how there is enough space between the foliage for light to creep in. The palette is fairly small, with grey and white tones used in most cases, plus some touches of red on the visible rucksack plus some flowers dotted around in the foreground.