Sunset in the Yosemite Valley 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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Sunset in the Yosemite Valley by Albert Bierstadt is a well-known painting depicting the Yosemite Valley in California. The famous American landscape painter Bierstadt is renowned for his paintings of the American West, and many of his paintings show the Yosemite Valley.

Sunset in the Yosemite Valley was painted in 1865 and depicts an idealised version of nature: it shows a wide, open scene with little indication of the civilisation that was rapidly spreading through California at this time.

This painting became an iconic image and was used as a symbol to promote tourism and settlement of the West. It was made using new technologies such as the half-tone screen and lithography, which enabled mass production of prints and thus kept down costs. One estimate is that over 3 million prints were made during the 19th century. To meet the growing market in tourism, artists transformed nature into a landscape that was idealised and celebrated America's natural beauty. This painting is an example of this type of romantic vision.

The Yosemite Valley is a major attraction for tourists visiting California's Yosemite National Park, and for this reason, it is visited by hundreds of thousands of people each year. One aspect that makes the park such an attraction is the 18-mile-long Yosemite Valley, set in California's Sierra Nevada Mountains. The valley itself is cut into granitic rocks formed as a result of uplift during the late Cretaceous and early Tertiary periods.

This painting by Albert Bierstadt depicts an aerial view of Yosemite Valley taken in the evening. In the centre of the painting is El Capitan, a sheer cliff that rises 3,000 feet above Yosemite Valley and is one of the world's favourite climbing rocks. Just to the right of El Capitan in this work, we can see Sentinel Rock and Cathedral Rocks; these two formations tower over the valley floor and are highly sought after by rock climbers. Filling the foreground of this painting are trees that have turned yellow, orange, and red during the autumn season. The remainder of the painting is coloured in various sunset shades. It is just as if Bierstadt captures light at different strengths to give viewers an accurate representation of a sunset in the Yosemite Valley.

Albert was a realism artist, and he got the opportunity to paint the Yosemite Valley when he was financially secure. He would go on multiple trips to see different parts of America and paint what he saw, such as this painting of the Yosemite Valley. His other realism artworks include Storm in the Rocky Mountains (Mt Rosalie), The Last of the Buffalo, Sunset in California's Owens Valley, The Rocky Mountains, Lander's Peak and Sierra Nevada Mountains. Today, the painting sits in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and attracts thousands of local and international visitors.