The Oregon Trail Albert Bierstadt Buy Art Prints Now
from Amazon

* As an Amazon Associate, and partner with Google Adsense and Ezoic, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
Email: [email protected] / Phone: +44 7429 011000

The Oregan Trail is a title given to a number of different paintings by Albert Bierstadt from the year 1869. That includes Emigrants Crossing the Plains which features very different lighting to the artwork found in front of us here.

The painting displayed here would have likely been made during the very same trip but features a very different, enclosed composition in which the artist focuses on just a few figures within a personal camp setting. As much as Bierstadt loved bright colours and open landscapes, he also became interested in the individual lives of fellow campers in some artworks, perhaps as a result of looking for an alternative style to keep his work fresh. One can see the moon just appearing from behind the trees and this perhaps allows Bierstadt to bring just a touch of light across the scene, so that at least some elements can be identified. Clearly, we are late at night and the figures in front of us are busy preparing a campfire for the long night ahead. The fire itself also provides some light in and around a large tree which is placed close by. Most people are alongside the fire, attempting to keep warm whilst perhaps singing or chatting amongst themselves.

A wagon can be seen on the left hand side along with a horse and a single figure walks across to the fire to join his friends, whilst carrying more firewood. This particular painting is actually dated at 1863 and is believed to have been gifted by the artist's family and passed down through generations to the present owner who lives in New York, USA. The item may have come up for sale as recently as 2009, and so it may no-longer remain under ownership of the same family. This artist's paintings are highly sought after and the productive nature of the artist has ensured that many hundreds of paintings are now spread between an even mix of public and private collections, at least allowing the public a reasonable opportunity to see some of his work in person. Highlights from his career remain the likes of Sunset in the Rockies, Sierra Nevada and Forest Sunrise.

The artist created this piece on cardboard using oils, in line with how he worked through much of his career. The item is just over one metre wide and Bierstadt would have to have considered the logistics of travelling around the country when planning the materials and mediums that he would use. In some cases he might produce drawings and then turn those into detailed paintings from the comfort of his own studio, and in those cases it would be more possible to use heavier, more cumbersome methods than when outdoors. Paintings such as The Oregan Trail help to remind us that the artists was not only a landscape painter, but also highly skilled in light as well as figurative portraits, and could successfully combine them from time to time.

The Oregon Trail in Detail Albert Bierstadt