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Albert Bierstadt completed this beautiful painting around 1871-73 as huge oil on canvas. It was a time when images of America's unspoilt and spectacularly remote landscapes were extremely popular.
Bierstadt, like many other artists, visited Yosemite many times. His first visit was in 1863 and he is said to have described the area as a "Garden of Eden". This particular painting depicts the dramatic Bridalveil Fall in Yosemite. A huge waterfall that runs all year round, plunging around 188m. Bierstadt was part of the Hudson River School of Art, a group of New York City based landscape painters whose art romanticized the wonder of nature.
Bierstadt used techniques like luminism to add an ethereal quality to the light in the picture and concealing his brushstrokes. This image is a wonderful example of Bierstadt's vision. Whilst he would have studied the area well in person, he would manipulate the scene to present his own idealized version. In this painting of the Falls, Bierstadt depicts a bright blue sky, playing the light over the water, spray and rocks then down to the much darker tones in the foreground where we see a couple of deer. The area is remote, no humans are in sight. The oddly shaped, bent tree grabs the viewer's attention and just behind this tree is another dead or dying tree, suggesting that nature is not perfect.
Like his other landscapes, Bierstadt adds minute details to the leaves and ground, encouraging the viewer to study this wonderful, remote area and feel the raw emotion that he must have felt. Paintings like Bierstadt's, were often the only images that people would ever see of such a wild and distant part of America, like the Yosemite Falls area photograph by Ansel Adams. This painting of the Bridalviel Fall is currently in the North Carolina Museum of Art. It highlights the important part that Albert Bierstadt played in assisting to preserve and protect such wonderful places. It is also a wonderful piece of American Art history.