In 1879 Albert Bierstadt rendered the beautiful Cascading Falls scenery in this painting entitled Cascading Falls at Sunset. This is one of Bierstadt’s works that have the American West as subject. It contains characteristics of the Luminism movement, in which art theorists usually include the artist.
The painters considered Luminists did not call themselves that. This was a term created afterward to define landscape artists that depicted the American sceneries with a great technique, usually deploying aerial perspective and a hidden brushstroke. A lot of the Romanticism can be found in the works of this movement, like the realism with which the canvases were made, and exultation of nature.
After finishing his studies in Germany, Bierstadt went back to the United States of America and applied what he had learned in Dusseldorf with Thomas Worthington Whittredge painting the new lands of the American West. These were places that almost no artist had seen before and, for that reason, hadn’t been depicted before. When Bierstadt’s paintings of Western America were seen by the American public, the people were mesmerized by the beauty of those places, so perfectly captured by the German American artist.
This particular picture is a landscape painted on a vertical canvas. The primary element is the waterfall Cascading Falls in Roseville in California. In the foreground, there is part of the cliff, and a man with two horses stands on the right side of it. This part of the composition is in shadow, whereas the rest of the composition has still sunlight in most parts.
The waterfall is in the middle of the canvas. In the center of it, there’s a tree that leans onto the water. It reflects the sunlight, which gives the plant an orange tone. The trees that are next to this central element are also in shadow. In the background, we can see three mountains. The first is covered with forest. In front of it, there is a grey cloud. The other two mountains are white because of their snow peaks.
The composition has many triangular shapes which tie the elements together in a very balanced unit. The inverted triangle created by the cliffs on both sides of the canvas contrast with the ones in the shapes of the mountains in the distance.
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