One of the finest landscape artists of America, Bierstadt is famous for painting the natural history of America. His works depict the untamed side of America, specific to the nineteenth century that he drew from sketches and photographs.

With an overwhelming naturalistic aspect, his work sought great inspiration from his visits to Europe, showcasing conservation in line with National Parks. As a result, his work features the dilemma of Native Americans, the national parks of America, wildlife, and, most important, landscapes involving lakes, reserves, and glaciers. Amongst his artworks, famous paintings like Domes of Yosemite and The Rocky Mountains got him immense fame.

Early life and travel

Primarily self-taught, Bierstadt painter later traveled to Germany to receive his formal art training, where he met some great names in the history of art that inspired Bierstadt’s painting style and techniques. Not only this, Bierstadt was famous for traveling vast trek distances. He would go over scary, rugged terrain, looking for spectacular scenery. His tour of Switzerland and Italy greatly inspired him, which exposed him to the Alpine regions.

Moreover, the Düsseldorf School of landscapists led him on the stylistic journey that ultimately enabled him to develop a refined, elaborate, romanticized version of the American West. These artists used color palettes that were well-balanced and subdued. Bierstadt returned to America and introduced these concepts to the Hudson River School of artists. This is represented through his work Staubbach Falls, Near Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland. 

This work represents a forested valley with pouring waterfalls and snow-covered mountains. Although his later return to England developed his painting style and technique, in America, in the name of the frontier landscapes, the Bierstadt painter found his true inspiration. This is seen when he says, “Our own country has the best material for the artist in the world.”

Exploring the European landscapes initially, the artist, while traveling westwards, began to sketch and take photographs that laid the basis for his future artistic career.  

Painting Style


The artist pioneered Luminism, a style that incorporates landscape description in line with the lighting effect used to promote tranquility and contemplation in the audience. Instead of brushstrokes, the luminists use tonal modulations to create cool, palpable radiant light.

Few landscape painters started to paint on a smaller scale instead of creating monumental scenes of American Wilderness. This was just before the Civil War started.

This style of Luminism was quite similar to the Transcendentalist writings that promoted the idea that a person needs to involve himself in natural beauty in order to understand and appreciate its divineness. However, the artists did not adopt a unified style under luminism but shared some of the common stylistic techniques.

Albert Bierstadt paintings thus showcase fewer brushstrokes and promote more silence. Influencing the recent landscape painting style, the compositions of the luminist style are ordered that emphasized in-depth spatial recession. As a result, the rendered surfaces leave no hint of the brushstrokes. Such clarity takes the viewer closer to nature, where he enjoys the scene in peaceful silence.

One such Albert Bierstadt art that coherently reflects the luminist style is The Buffalo Trail. Although the artist is famous for creating large landscape paintings of the American West, much of Albert Bierstadt’s works have common features of the luminist style. Painting low horizons that depict wide plains, the artist created The Buffalo Trail. 

You would notice how the light from the sun is hidden by the resulting cloud shadows, creating more emphasis on the buffalo and how it crosses the river. Bierstadt created an extraordinary work by presenting a symmetrically measured view of nature drawn in a manner to grasp the attention of the viewer to the light central to the scene, which is a key feature of luminist paintings.

Techniques used by Bierstadt 

The later Albert Bierstadt’s artworks show that he decided to use a different painting technique that wasn’t regularly used before. The material the artist chose had a deadly effect on how the paintings appeared. One of the most unusual materials used was Graphite paint. It, however, seemed that the artist experimented with this type of paint to create a protective coating on the painting for weatherproofing and preservation. The later paintings of Bierstadt also reflect paint media that includes oil and water emulsion.

The iconic Albert Bierstadt paintings represent indigenous people, landscapes, and animals. His most significant and successful work is the Last of the Buffalo. A historical representation with a combination of metaphoric modernism, the painting was a way to convey the fate and struggling status of Native Americans and the American Bison in the West. 


Nevertheless, Bierstadt got his fame based on his theatrical art and ever-roaring energy, which, however, faced criticism in the context of the kind of work he produced. While his landscape works have immensely supported the conservation movement, critics label his work as soulless. In contrast, he is most criticized for depicting romanticism and excessive light in his work, called upon for oversized and gaudy.


The famous American landscape painter Albert Bierstadt is known for his majestic art encompassing the Native Americans and the indigenous people, wildlife, and primarily landscapes. His paintings not only spurred tourism in the American West, but Bierstadt’s efforts in conserving wildlife got him fame and respect. He continued to travel, sketching and taking photographs of the divine scenic nature. His work involved huge paintings with intense concentration on light and its effects. 

He was, in other words, the pioneer of luminism. However, even though the wide variety of work he created attracted a huge audience, Bierstadt’s work was criticized mainly because of his in-depth romanticism and luminism. Moreover, as the modern style of art and movement, such as impressionism, started to get famous, Bierstadt’s dramatic creations lost their appeal. In contrast, his large serene landscapes continue to reign till today.


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