The Buffalo Trail is a painting by Albert Bierstadt made in 1867 after the artist went on some journeys through the American West. It shows a sunset at a Western landscape, on a cloudy day. A herd of buffalos can be seen crossing the fields and a river at the center of the painting.
Bierstadt is most famous for this series of works of American West landscapes. He was one of the first to render this part of the United States and, because of that, had a lot of success selling his works. His achievements were not only a reflection of how beautiful the landscapes were in reality but also the mastery of painting techniques that Bierstadt developed.
This composition has the sun as the central element. The bright, yellowish light in the sky is also reflected in the river. Inside it, we can see the herd of buffalos in a line. The sharp contrast between the dark color of the buffalos and the clear water calls attention to this area in the canvas. As the viewer’s eyes are caught by the buffalos, the line of the herd guides the viewer’s attention to the left. The herd trails off to the distance, after making a curve and vanishing in the center of the picture.
Next, to the borders of the canvas, Bierstadt used darker shades of colors. On the right side, there are trees, through which the sunbeams can’t go through. This is a very dark element. It dialogues with the dark cloud on the upper left corner. The first buffalo in the line is moving in the direction of these trees, giving the impression that’s where they will spend the upcoming night.
Bierstadt wrote once how impressed he was with the buffalos. He described having seen some crossing a river and had no time to draw them, for he was too astonished to pick his materials up. Therefore, this choice of subject is not a surprise, and it can be found more than once in his production, such as in the Buffalo Trail, a painting also called The Impending Storm.
Even though Bierstadt was born in Germany in 1930, his family moved with him as a baby to America. His works became of great national importance. They played a role in the development of American identity and pride. In his depictions, America resembles paradise.
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