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Painted between 1877 and 1880, Street in Nassau is one of the most celebrated oil on canvas paintings by Albert Bierstadt.
Whilst there is no doubt that Bierstadt is primarily regarded as one of the greatest landscape painters of the American West, the artist turned his brushes to a number of locations outside of the North American continent. This scene in Nassau, the capital of The Bahamas is a testament to the passion for natural beauty that Bierstadt had, regardless of the location.
Street in Nassau is one painting from a small body of work that Bierstadt created in The Bahamas, travelling to the Caribbean with his wife Rosalie in the late 1870s. Rosalia being a chronic sufferer of consumption (now known as tuberculosis), the couple spent a considerable amount of time in The Bahamas to receive the benefits of the climate and environment.
Those benefits are on display for all to see in the construction of this painting. The deep blue skies with partial white cloud cover evoke a serene and idealistic image of the Nassau climate, but importantly the canvas also features a lot of shaded areas underneath lush green foliage. The hot sun mixed with forgiving shade brings forth an image of The Bahamas as a place that offers visitors the best of both worlds.
The unpaved dirt road that runs from foreground to background says provincial rather than poverty, with a property wall on the left side of the canvas bringing into the landscape the idea of the constructions of civilisation to accompany the freedom of the tropical nature. There is a clear sense of the carefree that is captured within the painting, perhaps a reference to the healthier living that Bierstadt and his stricken wife were able to indulge in on their visits to The Bahamas.
Amongst the serene blues of the sky and calming greens of the foliage, the distinctly vibrant red skirt of the central female figure in the painting has to be a deliberate choice on Bierstadt's behalf. Though small in scale to the rest of the canvas, this pop of red helps to inject a tiny dash of West Indies flare and vibrancy – maybe an injection of a little heat - and it immediately gives the painting a focal point that draws the eye and invites the viewer to explore the landscape from there outwards. Street In Nassau can currently be viewed in person at the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid, Spain as part of the loaned Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection.