Overview

Best known for his panoramic views of the Rocky Mountains, Albert Bierstadt began his career as a painter of European landscapes. In 1856, during a period of study abroad, he spent time in Switzerland and completed the plein air sketches he would later use to compose Lake Lucerne, the most important painting of his early career.

In the spring of 1858 he sent the painting to New York for the annual exhibition at the National Academy of Design. The picture caused a sensation. Bierstadt was hailed as a bright new star on the American art stage and was elected an honorary member of the Academy.

Bierstadt's painting offers a sweeping view of Lake Lucerne with the village of Brunnen in the middle distance and the alpine peaks Ematten, Oberbauen, Uri–Rotstock and St. Gotthard in the distance. Though an image of mountain grandeur, Lake Lucerne also contains numerous pastoral vignettes—a harvest scene near the center, a religious procession at the right, and a gypsy camp at the left.

One year after completing Lake Lucerne Bierstadt traveled to the Rocky Mountains for the first time. During the decade that followed he produced the western landscapes that brought him his greatest success. These views of the west, so often described as distinctly American, were born of Bierstadt's experience abroad and frequency duplicate the composition of the first of his large–scale landscapes, Lake Lucerne.

Inscription

lower right: ABierstadt. / 1858.

Marks and Labels

null

Provenance

Purchased from the artist by Alvin Adams [1804-1877], Watertown, Massachusetts, by 14 December 1858;[1] his estate; (his estate sale, Leonard & Co., Boston, 16-17 March 1882, 2nd day, no. 109); Hezekiah Conant [1827-1902], Pawtucket, Rhode Island;[2] William Leroy Sunderland [d. 1938], Exeter, Rhode Island, circa 1890;[3] his wife, Pearl Joslin Tarbox Sunderland Rose [d. 1989], Exeter, Rhode Island; (her estate sale, Northern Appraisers, Warwick, Rhode Island, 13 October 1990, no. 43).[4]

Exhibition History

1858
Boston Athenaeum, c. September - December 1858, no. 327.
1858
New-Bedford Art Exhibition, New Bedford, Massachusetts, 20 July - 7 August 1858, no. 136.
1858
Thirty-Third Annual Exhibition, National Academy of Design, New York, 13 April - 30 June 1858, no. 6.
1860
Boston Athenaeum, 1860, no. 207, and later that year as no. 239.
1861
Boston Athenaeum, 1861, no. 246.
1862
Boston Athenaeum, 1862, no. 260.
1991
Art for the Nation: Gifts in Honor of the 50th Anniversary of the National Gallery of Art, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1991, 148-149, color repro.
1992
Albert Bierstadt: Art & Enterprise, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1991-1992, no. 6.

Bibliography

1858
"A Grand Picture." Home Journal (3 April 1858): 2.
1858
"A Grand Picture." New Bedford Evening Standard (6 April 1858): 2.
1858
"Art Matters." Boston Evening Transcript (1 September 1858): 2.
1858
"Athanaeum Gallery." Boston Post (20 September 1858): 4.
1858
"A World for the Artist." Boston Evening Transcript (11 September 1858): 2.
1858
"Correspondence." Home Journal (12 June 1858): 2.
1858
_National Academy of Design: Catalogue of the Thirty-Third Annual Exhibition (13 April-30 June 1858): 17, no. 99.
1858
"National Academy of Design." Home Journal (8 May 1858): 2-3.
1858
"National Academy of Design." The Albion 35 (24 April 1858): 201.
1858
_New Bedford Daily Mercury (14 December 1858): 1.
1858
_New Bedford Daily Mercury (23 September 1858): 2.
1858
_New Bedford Daily Mercury (5 May 1858): 2.
1858
_New York Evening Post (1 May 1858): 1.
1858
"Sketchings." The Crayon 5 (May 1858): 147.
1858
"The National Academy of Design." New York Daily Tribune (4 May 1858): 6.
1859
"Sketchings." The Crayon 6 (January 1859): 26.
1860
"The Annual Exhibition" [advertisement]. Boston Evening Transcript (27 March 1860): 3.
1863
Gray, Barry. "Bierstadt the Artist." New York Leader (17 January 1863): 2.
1866
_Ladies' Repository 26 (January 1866): 64.
1866
Tuckerman, Henry T. "Albert Bierstadt." Galaxy 1 (15 August 1866): 679.
1867
Tuckerman 1867, 388, 293.
1870
Kohler, Sylvester Rosa. "Albert Bierstadt." Zeitschrift für bildende Kunst (Leipzig) 5:72.
1871
Kohler, Sylvester Rosa. "Albert Bierstadt." Der deutsche Pionier 2 (January/February 1871): 362.
1880
Stahan, Edward (pseud. of Earl Shinn). The Art Treasures of America. 3 vols. Philadelphia, 1880. Reprint, New York, 1977: 93.
1882
_Art Interchange 8 (30 March 1882): 79.
1882
_Boston Daily Advertiser (18 March 1882): 9.
1882
_Boston Evening Transcript (10 March 1882): 1.
1882
_Boston Evening Transcript (18 March 1882): 3.
1882
_Boston Evening Transcript (9 March 1882): 4.
1882
_Boston Globe (18 March 1882): 2.
1882
_Boston Herald (18 March 1882): 6.
1882
_Boston Morning Journal (18 March 1882): 4.
1882
_Boston Post (18 March 1882): 1.
1882
_Catalogue of the Collection of Oil Paintings of the Late Alvin Adams to be Sold by Auction on Thursday and Friday March 16, 17. Boston, 1882: 45, no. 109.
1902
_Boston Evening Transcript (26 February 1902): 15.
1943
Cowdrey, Mary Bartlett. National Academy of Design Exhibition Record 1826-1860. 2 vols. New York, 1943: 1:32.
1973
Hendricks, Gordon. Albert Bierstadt, Painter of the American West. New York, 1973: 53, 56-58.
1980
Perkins, Robert F., and William J. Gavin III. The Boston Athenaeum Art Exhibition Index, 1827-1874. Boston, 1980: 20.
1990
_Collection of Fine Painting, Bronzes and John Rogers' Statuary Works from the Estate of Pearl J. Rose (auction catalogue, Northern Appraisers, Warwick, Rhode Island). Sale of 13 October 1990, no. 43.
1990
"Painting Surfaces after 100 Years." Washington Times (7 June 1990): B6.
1990
Reif, Rita. "A Long-Lost Painting by Bierstadt is Found." New York Times (11 June 1990): C-18.
1991
Aeschlimann, Johann. "Wegen `Lake Lucerne' ist Mister Bierstadt Amerika beruhn." Luzerner Neuste. Lucerne, Switzerland. 2 November 1991.
1991
"Albert Bierstadt: Art & Enterprise." National Gallery of Art Circle Bulletin Number 8 (Fall 1991): 9.
1991
Anderson, Nancy K., and Linda S. Ferber. Albert Bierstadt: Art and Enterprise. Exh. cat. The Brooklyn Museum. Brooklyn, 1990: 26, 41, 61, 65n.13, 106n.76, 113, 123, 124, 130, 131, 135, 143, 174, 246, 250.
1991
Anderson, Nancy. "The European Roots of Albert Bierstadt's Views of the American West." Antiques 139 (January 1991): 220-222, 229, 232.
1991
Brenson, Michael. "National Gallery Puts its Gifts on Display." New York Times (18 March 1991): C-11.
1991
Collins, Glenn. "Tracking Bierstadts: The Making of a Show." New York Times (6 February 1991): C-11, 13.
1991
Ferber, Linda. "Anatomy of an Exhibition." Barnard Alumnae Magazine 81 (Fall 1991): 16.
1991
Forgey, Benjamin. "Masterpiece Theatre." The Washington Post Magazine (17 March 1991): 30-31.
1991
Gingold, Diane J. and Elizabeth A.C. Weil. The Corporate Patron. New York, 1991: 157, color repro.
1991
Heffner, Stephen. "National Gallery of Art to Exhibit Masterpiece Rediscovered in Rhode Island." Providence Evening Bulletin (8 February 1991): D-1.
1991
Johnson, Ken. "West to Eden." Art in America 79 (December 1991): 90-91.
1991
Kernan, Michael. "Showing the West in Paintings as Big as All Outdoors." Smithsonian 21 (February 1991): 88.
1991
Patton, Phil. "A Day in the Life of the National Gallery of Art at Age 50." Smithsonian 21 (March 1991): 63.
1991
Richard, Paul. "Paean to the American Dream." Washington Post (November 3, 1991): G1, G8.
1991
Simon, Robin. "The National Gallery of Art, Washington: Fifty Years of Collecting for the Public Good." Apollo 133 (March 1991): 153-154.
1991
Sozanski, Edward J. "A Modern Masterpiece." Philadelphia Inquirer (17 March 1991): F-5.
1991
Suckow, Shirley. "Albert Bierstadt le paysage en gloire." La Tribune de Geneve (6 November 1991): 37.
1991
Walker, Richard W. "A Bargain for a Missing Link." Art News 90 (April 1991): 35.
1992
Anderson, Nancy. Discovered Lands Invented Pasts: Transforming Visions of the American West. New Haven, 1992: 24.
1992
May, Stephen. "Albert Bierstadt on a Grand Scale." Southwest Art 21 (May 1992): 82-84, 173.
1992
Sweeney, Louise. "Bierstadt's Expansive Vision." Christian Science Monitor (12 December 1992): 10.
1992
Wilton, Andrew. "Albert Bierstadt: Art and Enterprise." Apollo 135 (January 1992): 56.
1995
National Gallery of Art. National Gallery of A rt, Washington, Rev. ed. Washington, D.C.,1995: 233, repro.
1996
Kelly, Franklin, with Nicolai Cikovsky, Jr., Deborah Chotner, and John Davis. American Paintings of the Nineteenth Century, Part I. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 1996: 33-39, color repro.
2004
Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 301-302, no. 244, color repro.
2013
Harris, Neil. Capital Culture: J. Carter Brown, the National Gallery of Art, and the Reinvention of the Museum Experience. Chicago and London, 2013: 424.

Technical Summary

The support is a medium-weight, \rplain-weave fabric coated with a white ground of moderate thickness. Infrared reflectography and x-radiography \rreveal traces of underdrawing, probably in pencil, as well \ras significant compositional changes in the paint layer. \rOf particular note are passages at the far left, where a \rrocky cliff was transformed into a grove of trees, and at \rthe far right, where the church atop the promontory was \rrepositioned at least twice. Pentimenti in the sky indicate \rthat the profiles of several mountain peaks were also altered. Except in dark areas where the paint is thin and transparent, the surface is opaque. Numerous brush \rstrokes are visible in the paint, which was applied as a relatively fluid paste. Impasto highlights are common in the \rforeground. A strong tented craquelure, perhaps signifying the use of driers, is visible in the sky. In 1990-1991 the \rpicture was relined, discolored varnish was removed, and \rthe painting was restored. The painting is in excellent \rcondition.

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