Albert Bierstadt (1830 — 1902), was a German born American artist who painted landscapes and whose tremendous popularity was based on his panoramic scenes of the American West. Among the last generation of painters associated with the Hudson River school, Bierstadt, like Frederick Church and Thomas Moran, covered vast distances in search of more exotic subject matter.

His reputation was made by the huge canvases that resulted from his several trips to the Far West. Executed in his studio in New York, the large works do not have the freshness and spontaneity of the small on-the-spot paintings from which they were produced. They are, however, immense in scale and grandiose in effect.

Bierstadt freely altered details of landscape to create the effect of awe and grandeur. His colours were applied more according to a formula than from observation: luscious, green vegetation, ice-blue water, and pale, atmospheric blue-green mountains.

The progression from foreground to background was often a dramatic one without the softness and subtlety of a middle distance.

This and other popular canvases by Albert Bierstadt shaped the visual identity of the American West in the United States and abroad. In early 1859 he accompanied a government survey expedition, headed by Frederick W. Lander, to the Nebraska Territory. By summer, the party had reached the Wind River Range of the Rocky Mountains in present-day Wyoming. Painted in New York after Bierstadt’s return from these travels, this work advertised the landscape as a frontier destined to be claimed by White settlers, according to the doctrine of Manifest Destiny. This belief that Americans were the divinely ordained “masters” of the continent systematically ignored with dire consequences the presence of Indigenous populations, such as the Shoshone peoples depicted in the picture’s foreground. Publicly exhibited to great acclaim, this monumental painting established Bierstadt as a key competitor of the preeminent landscape painter, Frederic Edwin Church. It was purchased in 1865 for the then-astounding sum of $25,000 by James McHenry, an American living in London. Bierstadt later bought it back and gave or sold it to his brother Edward.

Source: encyclopaedia Britannica and The Metropolitan Museum of Art.