Yosemite Valley (1866) 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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Bierstadt was a pivotal figure in the interpretation of the western environment. He depicts the Yosemite Valley in several of his artistic creations. The artists' explorations of the Yosemite National Park inspired the oil on canvas painting, Yosemite Valley 1866.

Albert Bierstadt's paintings were brightly coloured and often large, mostly depicting the vast spaces and grandeur of the American West.

Illustration & Technique

The artist designed numerous pieces whose style was centred on meticulously detailed paintings on canvas, with romantic, glowing-like illumination, more often termed luminism. Bierstadt is particularly famous for his romanticism and luminism techniques in his masterpieces, Bierstadt created Yosemite Valley 1866 in a similar style. The painting is a natural blend of balanced earth colour pigments, mainly featuring variations of brown, blue and white colours and hints of green on the trees. The grassy meadow in the background is illustrated in golden-yellow, reflecting the sunlight behind the clouds.

At the front of the painting on the right, the ground is a bright brownish pigment almost red, an illustration likely of a day during summer. Immediately behind this is a magnificent alpine lake. Its calm waters indicate that the day is not windy. This is also seen in the calmness of the trees. On the left, in the forefront, are hues of brown and darker hues, depicting shadows caused by the trees. At the centre of the painting, the glowing illumination fades magically into the cliffs. Behind the cliffs on the right, a greyish pigment begins to flood the sky – there will likely be a downpour of rain later in the day.

The detail on the granite monuments on the far right is indicative of the glow of sunshine and the dryness of the earth. The cliff peaks are well detailed, bringing out the texture of the mountains. The artist took his time with this piece, as is illustrated by the peeping peaks of the monuments on the far left that can be seen peeking through the dark brown trees. The lack of green pigment in the trees and on the grass also indicates a dry summer day or the onset of autumn.

The scenery in Yosemite Valley 1866 is serene and peaceful, and it's almost like the absence of man and animal enhances that peaceful existence of nature that lies in grandeur upon the canvas. The blend of blue and white pigments in the sky shows a clear yet cloudy day, perhaps a mix of the emotions Bierstadt may have been going through when creating this piece.


Currently, Yosemite Valley 1866 is part of a private collection.