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Albert Bierstadt: Witness to a Changing West

Albert Bierstadt: Witness to a Changing West

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As one of America’s most prominent nineteenth-century painters, Albert Bierstadt (1830–1902) is justly renowned for his majestic paintings of the western landscape.
Yet Bierstadt was also a painter of history, and his figural works, replete with images of Plains Indians and the American bison, are an important part of his legacy as well. This splendid full-color volume highlights his achievements in chronicling a rapidly changing American West.

Born in Germany, Bierstadt rose to prominence as an American artist in the late 1850s and enjoyed nearly two decades of critical success. His paintings propelled him to the forefront of the American art scene, but they also met with reproach from his peers and critics in the press who viewed his painting style as outmoded. Bierstadt’s star has both risen and fallen as modern art historians have reconsidered his complex oeuvre.

This volume takes a major step in reappraising Bierstadt’s contributions by reexamining the artist through a new lens. It shows how Bierstadt conveyed moral messages through his paintings, often to preserve the dignity of Native peoples and call attention to the tragic slaughter of the American bison.
More broadly, the book reconsiders the artist’s engagement with contemporary political and social debates surrounding wildlife conservation in America, the creation and perpetuation of national parks, and the prospects for the West’s indigenous peoples.
Bierstadt’s final history paintings, including his dual masterworks titled The Last of the Buffalo—a special focus of this volume—stand out as elegiac odes to an earlier era, giving voice to concerns about the intertwined fates of Native peoples and endangered wildlife, especially bison.

Along with its rich sampling of Bierstadt’s diverse artwork, Albert Bierstadt: Witness to a Changing West features informative essays by noted curators, scholars of art history, and historians of the American West.
Hardback copy.


Peter H. Hassrick is Director Emeritus and Senior Scholar at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West. He is the author, coauthor, or editor of many publications, including Frederic Remington: A Catalogue Raisonné II, Painted Journeys: The Art of John Mix Stanley, and In Contemporary Rhythm: The Art of Ernest L. Blumenschein.

Bruce B. Eldredge is Executive Director of the Buffalo Bill Center of the West.

Arthur Amiotte is a contemporary Lakota artist, historian, and educator.

Emily C. Burns is Assistant Professor of Art History at Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama. Her work has been published in anthologies and in journals such as Panorama and Nineteenth-Century Art Worldwide.

Dan Flores is retired as A. B. Hammond Professor of History at the University of Montana, Missoula. He is the author of numerous books, including Visions of the Big Sky: Painting and Photographing the Northern Rocky Mountain West and The Natural West: Environmental History in the Great Plains and Rocky Mountains.

Karen B. McWhorter is the Scarlett Curator of Western American Art for the Whitney Western Art Museum at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West. She has contributed essays to Elevating Western American Art: Developing an Institute in the Cultural Capital of the Rockies (2012), A Place in the Sun: The Southwest Paintings of Walter Ufer & E. Martin Hennings (2015), Fur Traders and Rendezvous: The Alfred Jacob Miller Online Catalogue, and Invisible Boundaries: Exploring Yellowstone’s Great Animal Migrations (2016), and has authored numerous articles on contemporary western American art.
Hardcover; 248 pages.
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