Wreck of the Ancon, Loring Bay, Alaska 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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This oil painting by Albert Bierstadt dates from 1889 and now resides in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, USA. The famous institution hosts several artworks from this important painter's career.

Wreck of the "Ancon" in Loring Bay, Alaska continues the artist's interest in seascapes and also links closely to some of the content found previously in the work of artists such as Turner within the Romanticist era. Bierstadt himself would take elements of that style into his own work, often taking nature as he saw it and then amending it in order to improve the overall painting. Some did not appreciate this approach, but most were happy to allow artistic license where it led to a better artwork. In some cases, Bierstadt would even incorporate mountains from one region into a composition for another, maybe even taking items from different nations altogether. This created some unusual results but in most cases he was able to fuse everything together seamlessly, as if the scene was entirely accurate with real life.

This piece seems as minimal as almost any other artwork by Bierstadt. We find the wreck leaning to its left, and some land to the right. But otherwise, there is relatively little to see here, and even the sky and sea are completed in fairly similar tones which has the effect of merging them together, other than for a slim strip of a lighter tone which persists across the horizontal. The one use of bright colour is given to the wreck itself, with yellow paint added to curved parts on either side, along with some bright white trim. The rest of the wreck is created by long lines of black paint to form the sail structure, and the main part of the boat. The artist then continues this through a shadow which heads directly towards us, just disappearing as it arrives at the bottom of the painting.

Albert Bierstadt left behind a large oeuvre by the end of his career, and although he is best remembered for his landscapes, other genres were also involved at various points. He adored the sea, and would feature lakes and rivers alongside tall mountain ranges as a means to communicating the beauty of the American West. He would also travel to Italy and Switzerland in search of the European equivalents. There was a huge impact made by his work and many still today adore the grand scale artworks that he contributed to American art. Few can deny that the Hudson River School convinced many as to the merits of American art, which had for some years been ignored by some in the international community.

Wreck of the Ancon, Loring Bay, Alaska in Detail Albert Bierstadt