The last of the Buffalo is one of Albert Bierstadt’s most famous paintings. It was made in 1888, and it is a critic work, which differs from the regular nationalist contents of his landscape paintings.
The scene depicted in this canvas is a Western American landscape. There are many skulls of buffalos, and a herd seems to be running from the scene, into the distance, in the left side of the painting. In the center, a little to the right, there’s a man, a native American, riding a white horse. He has a spear adorned with white and black feathers, the same he and the horse have on their heads.
The canvas shows the exact moment when the man strikes the buffalo with his spear. Bierstadt gave a very realistic effect to the animal’s eyes by adding a white reflection to it. Another buffalo looks at this scene while standing on the left side of the canvas.
In 1859 Bierstadt, after having gained the respect of the National Academy of Design for a painting of a Swiss landscape traveled to the West in a pioneer journey with the intention of finding new scenes for his pictures. He brought back many small sketches and drawings, which he would later develop into monumental paintings.
The success he achieved with such paintings was enormous. The American citizens would pay 50 cents to see one single work of the artist, which back then meant a more substantial amount of money than it does today. The mesmerizing paintings Bierstadt did were incredible for the following reasons: his outstanding technique and the beautiful choice of subjects. The effect his paintings had on the United States of America can be seen in the fact that the first national park of natural preservation was signed by Abraham Lincoln based only on the pictures rendered by Albert Bierstadt. That was the Yosemite Valley. More than that, people were moving to the newly discovered West, having just these paintings as information as to what they would find there.
This painting, The last of the Buffalo, was made after Bierstadt visited the American West once again in 1886. He was upset to find that the numerous herds of buffalos he saw on the other journeys, were almost entirely gone. As a result, he made this canvas to call attention to this matter as well as joined the Boone and Crockett Club, which was one of the first organizations of natural preservation and responsible hunting in the United States.
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