This small collection measures 0.2 linear feet and comprises 13 letters written by renowned Hudson River School landscape painter Albert Bierstadt between 1860 and 1900. The majority of the letters were penned in the last two decades of his life and discuss his painting, the inspiration he found in nature, his studio, and concerns relating to commissions and finances.
Scope and Content Note:
This small collection measures 0.2 linear feet and comprises 13 letters written by renowned Hudson River School landscape painter Albert Bierstadt between 1860 and 1900. The majority of the letters were penned in the last two decades of his life.
Bierstadt writes specifically of his work in several of the letters and refers to two paintings, Laramie Peak and The Jungfrau. In one letter he writes of the inspiration he finds in nature through his love of the mountains. Bierstadt invites friends to his studio in New York City, mentions a trip to Yosemite in the 1870s and writes letters of introduction on behalf of friends. Two of the letters concern commissions and discuss financial matters.
Due to the small size of this collection, items are arranged as one chronological series.
Series 1: Albert Bierstadt Letters, 1860-1900 (Box 1; 13 items)
Albert Bierstadt was born in Solingen, Germany, in January 1830. His family emigrated to the United States when he was two years of age and settled in Bedford, Massachusetts.
In 1853 Bierstadt traveled to Germany to study painting at the Düsseldorf Art Academy. In 1858, following his return to the United States, he gained national attention for organizing a large exhibition of paintings including fifteen of his own works. Bierstadt drew inspiration from the painters of the Hudson River School, and regularly visited the White Mountains of New Hampshire to make sketches for his landscape paintings.
In 1859 Bierstadt traveled to the Colorado and Wyoming territories sketching landscapes in the company of a United States government survey expedition. On his return he took studio space at the new Tenth Street Studio Building in New York City and began a series of large-scale western landscape paintings, including Yosemite Valley and Thunderstorm in the Rocky Mountains. These paintings, known for their theatrical and romantic depiction of the grandeur and drama of the American West, brought Bierstadt great popularity during the 1860s.
Bierstadt's paintings were widely exhibited in the United States and abroad and commanded some of the highest prices in American art at the time, although his reputation began to decline somewhat in the 1880s in the face of changing public tastes.
Bierstadt was a member of the Century Association from 1862-1902 and a member of the National Academy of Design from 1860 until his death in 1902.
Also found at the Archives of American Art are the Robert Neuhaus papers concerning Clyfford Still and Albert Bierstadt, 1884-1984 (bulk 1941-1984). A circa 1875 photograph of Bierstadt by Bierstadt Brothers given to the Archives by an unknown donor is available in the Archives of American Art's Photographs of Artists Collection I and online.
The collection was acquired by the Archives of American Art in a series of accessions between 1955 and 2001. Six letters were donated by Charles Feinberg in 1955-1957; one letter was donated by Letitia Howe in 1976; one letter was donated by Mrs. Miles Reber, grandaughter-in-law of General Nelson in 1976; two letters were purchased from Charles Hamilton Autographs in 1956; one letter was purchased from Steele in 1956; and one letter was purchased from Scott J. Winslow Associates in 2001.
The collection has been digitized and is available online via the Archives of American Art website.
The Albert Bierstadt letter collecton is owned by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Literary rights as possessed by the donor have been dedicated to public use for research, study, and scholarship. The collection is subject to all copyright laws.