Albert Bierstadt, Art & Enterprise
- Dates: February 8, 1991 through May 6, 1991
- Collections: American Art
December 1990: The first major exhibition in almost 20 years of works by Albert Bierstadt will open on February 8 at The Brooklyn Museum, where it will remain on view through May 5, 1991. Bierstadt, one of the most prominent American landscape painters of the 19th century, is best known for his dramatic views of the American West.
Five years in the planning, Albert Bierstadt: Art & Enterprise assembles from public and private collections 74 of the artist’s finest paintings. The core of the exhibition will focus on the monumental western landscapes that brought Bierstadt his greatest fame. These will be complemented by important works representing all phases of the artist’s career, some exhibited publicly for the first time in this century.
Albert Bierstadt: Art & Enterprise is sponsored by Philip Morris Companies Inc.
The exhibition was organized by The Brooklyn Museum in association with the National Gallery of Art. Linda S. Ferber, Chief Curator and Curator of American Painting and Sculpture at The Brooklyn Museum, is co-curator of the exhibition with Nancy K. Anderson, Assistant Curator of American Art at the National Gallery of Art.
Among the heroic western panoramas in the exhibition will be The Rocky Mountains, Lander’s Peak, 1863 (The Metropolitan Museum of Art); Looking Down Yosemite Valley, California, 1865 (Birmingham Museum of Art); Storm in the Rocky Mountains, Mt. Rosalie, 1866 (The Brooklyn Museum); Among the Sierra Nevada Mountains, California, 1868 (National Museum of American Art), and The Last of the Buffalo, 1888 (Corcoran Gallery of Art). These monumental paintings will be brought together for the first time with other works whose subjects reflect Bierstadt’s extensive travels in Europe, the White Mountains, the Caribbean, Canada, the Pacific Northwest, and Alaska during a lifelong search for novel and dramatic landscapes. A generous selection of the artist’s brilliant plein air oil sketches will be included as well.
A “landscape theater” installation at The Brooklyn Museum will simulate the atmosphere in which an audience of the 1860s might have viewed one of the artist’s great western panoramas. While American and European entrepreneurs bid for possession of Bierstadt’s large paintings, the artist also appealed to an even larger audience through the publication and circulation of prints after these works. Six of these large 19th-century reproductions after Bierstadt’s most famous paintings will be included in the exhibition.
Albert Bierstadt (1830-1902) traveled west as far as the Rocky Mountains in 1859. He soon established himself as the first artist with both the technique and the talent to convey the powerful visual impact of western space, to capture the mammoth scale of the mountain ranges, and to begin to interpret this new American landscape. A second expedition in 1863 took the artist to California, where he spent seven weeks camping and painting in the Yosemite Valley. The oil sketches made on these two journeys provided the studies for a series of monumental western landscapes, completed between 1860 and 1870, that would mark the high point of Bierstadt’s long career.
Even at the moment of his greatest popular and material success, however, Bierstadt began to feel the sting of criticism, which would become increasingly strident as the century drew to a close and American taste and attitudes toward landscape changed. By the time of his death, Bierstadt had been nearly forgotten. In the 1960s a revival of interest was sparked by the seemingly “proto-modern” plein air sketches. Since then, three decades of art-historical research have brought to light many important paintings, as well as historical documents that flesh out the details of Bierstadt’s long and productive career. Now, a full century after the last of his great western panoramas was completed, Albert Bierstadt: Art & Enterprise, a retrospective of works drawn from all stages of the artist’s career, provides a new generation of viewers and scholars with the opportunity to discover Bierstadt’s contribution and achievement.
Linda S. Ferber and Nancy K. Anderson are the principal authors of an accompanying book, also entitled Albert Bierstadt: Art & Enterprise, with a contribution by Helena E. Wright, Curator, Division of Graphic Arts, National Museum of American History. Published by The Brooklyn Museum in association with Hudson Hills Press, the volume is lavishly illustrated and will contain--in addition to essays by Ferber, Anderson, and Wright--an extensive documented chronology of Bierstadt’s life and career compiled by Dr. Anderson and two appendices of rare primary documents.
A number of public programs related to the exhibition will also be offered, among them a daylong symposium on Saturday, April 13; a series of Sunday lectures beginning on March 17; gallery talks; an open house for teachers[;] and a series of dramatic readings.
Critical support for Albert Bierstadt: Art & Enterprise has been provided by The Henry Luce Foundation, Inc. Additional funds were provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts, Federal agencies, and by the New York State Council on the Arts, and by Mr. and Mrs. Wilbur L. Ross, Jr.
The exhibition will be on view June 8 - September 1, 1991, at the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum, San Francisco, and at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., November 3, 1991 - February 17, 1992.
Philip Morris Companies Inc. began its support of the arts in 1958. Since then, the company has developed one of the most comprehensive corporate cultural programs. Through its broad spectrum of sponsorship, Philip Morris promotes contemporary and minority visual and performing arts programs, as well as major international exhibitions and tours. Recent exhibitions include: Kazimir Malevich, 1878-1935; Picasso and Braque: Pioneering Cubism, and Black Art-Ancestral Legacy: The African Impulse in African-American Art.
January 1991: In conjunction with Albert Bierstadt: Art & Enterprise, The Brooklyn Museum’s major retrospective exhibition of the works of prominent nineteenth-century American landscape painter Albert Bierstadt, the Museum will offer a selection of programs for adults, family groups, and children.
Albert Bierstadt: Art & Enterprise is sponsored by Philip Morris Companies Inc.
Featured will be an important symposium Saturday, April 13, “Albert Bierstadt: Art & Enterprise,” which will investigate aspects of Bierstadt’s work and career. The participants will include co-curators of the exhibition Dr. Linda S. Ferber, Curator of American Painting and Sculpture, The Brooklyn Museum, and Dr. Nancy K. Anderson, Assistant Curator of American Art, National Gallery of Art. They will be joined by Dr. Franklin Kelly, Curator of American Art, National Gallery of Art; Gerald Carr, Visiting Art Historian, Olana; and Lee Clark Mitchell, Professor of English, Princeton University. The cost of the symposium is $20 for non-members and $10 for members, senior citizens, and students.
Also featured will be a Sunday lecture series with guest speakers addressing a number of issues related to Bierstadt’s work. Co-curator of the exhibition Dr. Linda S. Ferber will deliver the first lecture, “Albert Bierstadt: The History of a Reputation” on March 17. Kevin J. Avery, Assistant Curator, American Painting and Sculpture, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, will speak on “Albert Bierstadt and the ‘Barnumesque’ in American Art” on March 24. “Albert Bierstadt and the German Landscape Tradition” will be the subject on April 7 with guest lecturer Nanni Kaps, Art Historian and Doctoral Candidate, Columbia University. “Bierstadt’s Images of Volcanoes: Old World and New” will be delivered on April 14 by Susan Sivard, a Luce Dissertation Fellow in American Art, Columbia University, and the final lecture, “Albert Bierstadt: His Late Canadian Works and Influences,” will be given on April 21 by Allan Pringle, Art Historian and Curator.
On Saturday, April 20, at 3:00 p.m., the Education Division will present a performance-lecture given by Robb Goldstein, The Troubador, entitled “The Mountains Speak: The Voice of the People, the Vision of the Artist.” The program is intended for adults and youths ages 12 and up, and combines folk songs, “folksay,” literature, and the fine arts in an illuminating look at American visions of the wilderness in the nineteenth century.
For children and families a storytelling workshop entitled “Storytelling: Pictures and Stories from the West” will be offered in the galleries on March 16, at 3:00 p.m. Sign-language interpretation will be provided.
In addition to these special programs, the exhibition will be the subject of regularly scheduled gallery talks. The talks occur throughout the week for Museum visitors, with specially guided group tours available by appointment.
Critical support for Albert Bierstadt: Art & Enterprise has been provided by The Luce Foundation, Inc. Additional funds were provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts, Federal agencies, by the New York State Council on the Arts, and by Mr. and Mrs. Wilbur L. Ross, Jr.