Surveyor's Wagon in the Rockies 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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Surveyor’s Wagon in the Rockies was produced by Albert Bierstadt in circa 1859, placing the artist in his late twenties at the time that he produced this bright and enjoyable piece. It now resides within the permanent collection of the Saint Louis Art Museum, USA.

There is a reduced ambition within this piece which perhaps captures an artist who is learning his trade at this point. The background, for example, is simply done, with varying layers of blue helping to create an image of distant mountains lying far in the distance. The contrast between the near and the far is also delivered in a fairly abrupt manner, meaning we have two main layers in the work, rather than the far more fused creations that appeared later on. In the foreground we find a desert-like landscape which very little foliage that leads up to a wagon with horses. Just a few signs of humanity can be seen here, with a figure further beyond holding their hand to their face, perhaps attempting to block the sun from their eyes. It feels entirely American does this piece and harks back to the early days of the country when exploration was at its most bold and exciting. The colour scheme here is simplified by how the scene is cut into two, with blue tones for the top half and greens for below.

The artist would spend much of his career travelling around the States, though he also visited parts of Europe and Canada as well. The German-born painter moved to the US aged two, and never lost his connection to Europe. Indeed, he was inspired most by artists in Germany and would even sometimes combine parts of that continent into paintings based in the US. His romantic approach put some off, who claimed it to be inaccurate, whilst others merely loved the aesthetics of his work and were not too concerned about how precise it may have been of the original location that the artist had visited. Even today people try to understand more about some of these different locations, meaning there are secrets still left over from his productive career.

This painting can be found in the collection of the Saint Louis Art Museum in the US and they actually have several other Bierstadt paintings within their permanent collection, making it a great place to learn more about this specific artist. Always check ahead though, as not all items will necessarily be out on display at any one time, such is the size of the collections in some of these more famous museums and galleries. Other artworks to look out for here include Nooning on the Platte, Olevano and California Redwoods, which together help to remind us of the variety that this art delivered across his career, which sometimes is forgotten. Even within that small selection you will find tree studies, wide open landscapes and also more personal depictions of the daily lives of ordinary locals within these breaktaking environments. Most still to this day are only aware of the larger canvases in which humanity is reduced to small dots for the purposes of perspective and a guide to relative sizing.

Surveyor's Wagon in the Rockies in Detail Albert Bierstadt