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Albert Bierstadt

Painter and photographic pioneer Albert Bierstadt was the fourth son born to Henry and Christina Tillmans Bierstadt in Solingen, Germany on January 7, 1830. When he was two, his family immigrated to the United States, settling in New Bedford, Massachusetts. There are no records of any formal educational instruction, and so historians believe his artistic training was self-taught. By age 20, Mr. Bierstadt was an accomplished painter and became a monochromatic painting teacher while exhibiting his own works throughout New Bedford. By 1851, he was also a promoter of magic lanterns, and it is believed his interest in photography began with his partnership with daguerreotypist Peter Fales.

Hoping to benefit from a professional artistic education, he returned to Dusseldorf in 1853 to attend the Dusseldorf Academy. There, he learned the importance of effective lighting and painstaking brushstrokes, which became his trademark style. While there, he opened a studio with American artist Worthington Whittredge, and together they painted and sketched the breathtaking European landscapes. After returning to the United States, Mr. Bierstadt established a studio and began making paintings of his travel photographs. In December of 1857, the Boston Athenaeum purchased his painting, The Portico of Octavia Rome, which provided him with both much-needed income and established his professional reputation. Two years later, a visit with his brother Edward reignited his passion for photography, which at that time was still in its infancy.

In 1859, Mr. Bierstadt was invited by Colonel Frederick W. Lander to join his expedition to improve roads for easier travel to the West. He, Francis Seth Frost, and other artists documented the improvements through sketches, paintings, and photographs. While in St. Joseph, Missouri, Mr. Bierstadt composed several stereographs of emigrant trains, views of the local ferry, and miners headed for Pike's Peak. Fascinated by the unspoiled beauty of the Rocky Mountains, he painted and photographed a series that critics have described collectively as "a Western Eden." For inspiration, he would make subsequent visits to the West in 1863, 1866, and 1872.


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