By 1869, when he created this idyllic view, Albert Bierstadt had made two extensive trips to the American West. He based this lush scene of buffalo peacefully making their way across a river or creek against a roiling sky on views he had sketched during one or both of those expeditions. In a letter he wrote on September 3, 1859 during his excursion with the survey team of US Army Colonel Frederick W. Lander, the artist describes one such scene. He recorded his awe at encountering the majestic buffalo in a passage that could easily describe Buffalo Trail: Impending Storm:
We find here plenty of buffalo. One morning we saw a noble looking animal crossing the river near us, and I alighted from my ambulance and took a position behind a bluff, in order to give him a reception. As he came splashing through the water, I felt half inclined to lay down my rifle and take up my sketchbook, but I was so wrapped in admiration and study I could do neither for a few moments.
Bierstadt's meticulous attention to detail and texture, as well as his tightly brushed technique—results of his early training in Düsseldorf, Germany—characterize this bucolic, romantic scene.
Marks and Labels
(J. Kugal, France); Bernard Black; (James Graham and Sons, New York) in 1958. (Kennedy Galleries, New York); acquired 1960 by Mrs. and Mrs. Lansdell K. Christie for the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington; acquired 2014 by the National Gallery of Art.
- 10th Anniversary Exhibition, Des Moines Art Center, 1958.
- Gallery Selection of Major American Paintings, James Graham and Sons, New York, 22 November - 24 December 1958.
- Loan, The Boatman's National Bank, St. Louis, 12 September 1961 - 30 March 1962.
- Art of the United States, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 1966, no. 16.
- Past and Present: 250 Years of American Art, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, 15 April-30 September 1966, unpublished checklist.
- Albert Bierstadt, Amon Carter Museum of Western Art, Fort Worth; Pennysvlvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia; Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, 1972-1973.
- "The American West": Selections from the Anschutz Collection and the Corcoran Collection, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, 1981, no. 10.
- Two Artists of the American West, Aspen Art Museum, 1 March - 14 April 1985.
- A New World: American Landscape Painting, National Museum, Stockholm; Gothenburg Art Museum, 1986-1987.
- Albert Bierstadt: Art and Enterprise, Brooklyn Museum of Art; Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1991-1992.
- American Art of the 19th Century, Osterreichische Galerie Belvedere, Vienna, 1999
- The American West: Out of Myth into Reality, Mississippi Museum of Art, Jackson: Terra Museum of Art; Toledo Museum of Art, 2000.
- American Journeys: Visions of Place, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, 21 September 2013-28 September 2014, unpublished checklist.
- Cash, Sarah, ed. Corcoran Gallery of Art: American Paintings to 1945. Washington, 2011: 288, repro.