“The Rocky Mountains, Lander’s Peak” by Albert Bierstadt
“The Rocky Mountains, Lander’s Peak” by Albert Bierstadt is based on sketches made during Bierstadt’s travels in 1859. The painting shows Lander’s Peak in the Wind River Range of the Rocky Mountains, with an encampment of Native Americans in the foreground.
Bierstadt depicts a band of Shoshone Native peoples along with the majestic peaks. His focus was on the relationship of the people with the landscape.
The Shoshone are a Native American tribe, which originated in the western Great Basin and spread north and east into present-day Idaho and Wyoming.
As more European-American settlers migrated west, tensions rose with the indigenous people over competition for territory and resources. Wars occurred throughout the second half of the 19th century.
The composition shows Lander’s Peak, a mountain with a summit of 10,456 feet (3,187 m) in the Wind River Range in modern-day Wyoming. After Lander died in the Civil War, the peak was named after Frederick W. Lander on Bierstadt’s initiative.
The landscape in the painting is not the actual landscape as it appears at Lander’s Peak, but rather an ideal landscape based on nature, altered by Bierstadt for dramatic effect.
The Native Americans in the foreground gave the scene authenticity and presented it as an environment untouched by Europeans.
Bierstadt showed the grandeur and beauty of the nation’s western wilderness. It also referenced the idea of Manifest Destiny, where the Rocky Mountains represented both natural beauty and an obstacle to westward expansion.
Shoshone Native peoples
Bierstadt illustrated the Shoshone people and the majestic peaks with a focus on their relationship with the landscape.
The Shoshone are a Native American tribe that originated in the western Great Basin and spread north and east into present-day Idaho and Wyoming.
In 1859, Eastern Shoshone peoples were plentiful in the region now called Western Wyoming.
Bierstadt commented on the Shoshone people he saw:
“The manners and customs of the Indians are still as they were hundreds of years ago, and now is the time to paint them, for they are rapidly passing away, and soon will be known only in history.”
The Shoshone people are depicted on a similar level as the geography and natural features, with Bierstadt attempting to capture an image of them, which he believes must be preserved as a part of history.
As more European-American settlers migrated west, tensions rose with the indigenous people over competition for territory and resources.
The Rocky Mountains, Lander’s Peak
- Title: The Rocky Mountains, Lander’s Peak
- Artist: Albert Bierstadt
- Year: 1863
- Medium: Oil on canvas
- Dimensions Height: 186.7 cm (73.5 in); Width: 306.7 cm (10 ft)
- Movement: Hudson River School
- Category: American Artist
- Museum: Metropolitan Museum of Art
Albert Bierstadt (1830 – 1902) was a painter of sweeping landscapes of the American West. He joined several journeys of the Westward Expansion to paint the scenes.
Bierstadt was born in Prussia, but his family moved to the United States when he was 1. He returned to Europe to study painting for several years in Düsseldorf.
He became part of the second generation of the Hudson River School in New York, an informal group of like-minded painters who started painting along the Hudson River.
Bierstadt was a critical interpreter of the western landscape, and he is also grouped with the Rocky Mountain School.
- Artist: Albert Bierstadt
- Born: 1830, Solingen, Rhine Province, Prussia
- Died: 1902 (aged 72), New York City
- Nationality: German-American
- Notable works:
Albert Bierstadt – American Paintings
A Tour of Washington, D.C. Museums
- National Gallery of Art
- National Museum of American History
- National Air and Space Museum
- National Museum of African American History and Culture
- National Museum of Natural History
- National Portrait Gallery
- Smithsonian American Art Museum
- The Phillips Collection
- Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
- International Spy Museum
- National Museum of Women in the Arts
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
American Landscape Painting: Albert Bierstadt and the American Land
Albert Bierstadt Follows the Sun
“The best material for the artist in the world.”
– Albert Bierstadt
Photo Credit: 1) Albert Bierstadt, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.