The artwork by German-born artist Albert Bierstadt entitled Mount St. Helens, Columbia River, Oregon was painted after one of the several journeys Bierstadt did through the American West. The date of this mesmerizing landscape rendering is unknown.
This is a work from the series of Western American landscapes which Bierstadt painted with mastery and for which he was most famous. It shows a peaceful scene, up on a hill looking at the Mount St. Helens which stands next to the Columbia River. The color palette used here is of clear shades of blue, purple, and reddish brown. The left side of the canvas shows a range of greens, for there is the foreground with a field covered in grass and a forest that spreads down the hill, into the center of the picture.
More than half of the composition is taken by the pastel colors of the river, mountain, and sky. The top of the Mount St. Helens is the brightest spot on the canvas. This yellowish white spot and the shape of the peak make the composition converge to this area. Photos of the mountain today show a different form, which means Bierstadt changed it to reach a more harmonic composition.
In 1959 Bierstadt decided to go on a surveying expedition through the Western side of the United States of America. He had just returned from Germany, where he refined his techniques studying with Thomas Worthington Whittredge, who was an American painter who lived in Düsseldorf.
This choice of taking part in a Western expedition was one of the best Bierstadt could have made for his career. Being one of the Hudson River School artists, he had an aesthetical style which was influenced by the Romanticism. This means, among other things, that his paintings seek to portray the sublime. This approach to the American landscapes during a time of growing nationalism granted Bierstadt a great deal of success. He was able to sell his monumental paintings for considerable amounts of money.
This work was probably made using one of the many sketches Bierstadt did while traveling through the West. He made drawings of the landscapes and throughout the following years developed masterpieces having them as models. Bierstadt worked exclusively in the studio, in contrast to his contemporaries Impressionists, who painted almost exclusively outdoors.
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