BIERSTADT, Albert (1830-1902)
The Rocky Mountains (Lander's Peak)
New York: Edward Bierstadt, 1866. Steel engraving by James Smillie. Proof before title, signed by Bierstadt and Smillie. After the painting, completed in 1863. Fine condition. Image size (including text): 16 3/4 x 27 7/8 inches. Sheet size: 23 1/2 x 34 1/8 inches.
In 1859, Bierstadt joined an expedition to the West led by Colonel Frederick W. Lander. This work was painted four years later in New York as a tribute to Lander who died in 1862 after a distinguished military career. Bierstadt found it fitting to name the central summit in memory of his fallen friend.
The painting was a huge success and was quickly bought by the English railroad magnate James McHenry for $25,000. Its beauty lies in Bierstadt's faithful delineation of the Shoshone Indian village encampment and carefully rendered foliage in the foreground with a middle distance featuring a reflective body of water and the exaggerated snow-capped peak in the background towering over the entire scene. It perfectly embodies the idea of Manifest Destiny and appealed to the imaginations of most Americans who had only read about our untamed frontier. The oil painting is in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
Due to its huge popular success, Bierstadt immediately asked James Smillie, America's premier engraver, to produce an engraving. However, it was not until December 1866, after three laborious years in the making, that this engraving was published.
Nancy Anderson and Linda S. Ferber, Albert Bierstadt Art & Enterprise , pp. 272-273, number 77, illustrated figure 80.