Tag Archives: German

Albert Bierstadt: Painter of the American West




On January 7, 1830, Albert Bierstadt was born in Solingen, Germany. Just one year later, his family moved to New Bedford, Massachusetts. It was here that he began to take an interest in art. This was made apparent by the “clever crayon sketches” he would create as a young child.

When Bierstadt was about 21 years old, he tried his hand at oil painting and found that he wanted to pursue art. In 1853 he traveled back to Germany , this time to Dusseldorf, to study art with distinguished painters Andreas Aschenbach and Karl Friedman Lessing at the Royal Academy. Bierstadt remained in Dusseldorf, polishing his skills and expanding his artistic abilities until 1857.

Returning to America in 1857, Bierstadt taught art for a short season. Soon after, in 1859, his life took an exciting turn of events when he had the opportunity to travel westward with an overland survey expedition.

The young artist took advantage of his time in the west by taking many photographs of the landscape as well as sketching plenty of drawings. The sketches would serve as skeletons of paintings that Bierstadt would create in the future. The American west remained his muse throughout his life, and he traveled there frequently.

Albert Bierstadt’s paintings of the American West were popular and sold for high sums of money. Still, the artist didn’t seem to impress the art critics of his time. His unpopularity in the art world might have been attributed to the large canvases he painted on, which were considered to be an “egotistical indulgence.” Also, the way he used light in his paintings was thought to be “excessive,” as was the romanticism of his subject matter.

Regardless of art critics’ lack of acceptance of him, Albert Bierstadt’s art remained sought-out by the public as his career grew. He became a member of the National Academy in 1860 and was a medal winner in Germany, Belgium, Bavaria, and Austria. He secured a studio in New York City, which he kept from 1861 to 1879. In 1862 Bierstadt continued to build his artistic success by becoming a member of the Century Association.

Bierstadt’s art often featured the landscapes he had seen in his travels across the American west. The painted landscapes, though rugged, were bathed in extravagant light, giving them a romantic feel. The artist paid great attention to detail and adorned his paintings with “mist, fog, and clouds” to create the effects he desired. Bierstadt used colors in an exaggerated way so as to make his paintings more ideal than realistic. Art collectors were (and are) strongly drawn to this type of work.

Albert Bierstadt didn’t paint landscapes of the American west exclusively. His works also feature international locations. Yosemite Park (Oakland, California), Staubbauch Falls (close to Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland), Mount Corcoran, Lake Lucerne (Switzerland), the Bernese Alps, the Wolf River (Kansas), and the Oregon Trail are all specific locations that were captured in Bierstadt’s paintings.

Throughout his career, Bierstadt exhibited his artwork at the Boston Athenaeum (1859-1864), the Boston Art Club (1873-1880), and the Brooklyn Art Association (1861-1879). Some of his works are currently housed at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts as well as other prestigious museums.

On February 18, 1902, Albert Bierstadt died in New York City. He is buried alongside his parents in New Bedford’s Rural Cemetery.

German-American painter Albert Bierstadt made a success of his life. He died having created between 500 and 4,000 paintings. To this day, Bierstadt’s art is in demand. His original paintings are sporadically made available for purchase, and the prices at which they sell continue to climb. Commercial prints of his work are most common. In capturing the heart of the American west, Albert Bierstadt also captured the hearts of the American people, which brought him great success in his artistic career.

In your opinion, what artists changed culture and society in significant ways? Who is your personal hero of the art world? We’d love to hear from you, so feel free to share your thoughts in the “comments” section below.





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Ernst Ludwig Kirchner: A Father of Expressionism


There are artists who create out of the best that is in them, and their contribution to the world is both beautiful and significant. Other artists create not just pieces of art, but art movements that actually shape culture and change the art world. Ernst Ludwig Kirchner was an artist who created significant pieces of artwork and changed the world through his creations.

On May 6, 1880, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner was born in Aschaffenburg. He studied art and architecture at the Technische Hochschule, which was located in Dresden. It was at the Technische Hochschule that Kirchner was exposed to artistic subjects such as freehand drawing, perspective drawing, and art history. He thrived at his university and graduated in 1905.

Kirchner made many friends while studying at Technische Hochschule, a few of which were Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, Erich Heckel, and Fritz Bleyl. It was with these friends that Ernst Ludwig Kirchner developed an artistic group called Die Brucke (“The Bridge”). This group would mature to become extremely significant to the world of art, for it was partly from Die Brucke that Expressionism was born.

Die Brucke had one main goal: “to eschew the prevalent traditional academic style and find a new mode of artistic images-1expression.” Die Brucke’s goal was reached and even exceeded as the group’s founders integrated older artwork of master artists with new art techniques. All of this innovative artistic activity was headed up by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, the mastermind behind Die Brucke.

Although Ernst Ludwig Kirchner was a world changing artist, he was also a tortured soul. He ended his life on June 15, 1938, depriving society of the treasure that he was. While Kirchner is no longer with us, his art is, and it is still speaking to us all these years later. 
Indeed, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner was more than an artist — he was a father of an artistic style called Expressionism, which is now cemented into modern culture.

In your opinion, what artists changed culture and society in significant ways? Who is your personal hero of the art world? We’d love to hear from you, so feel free to share your thoughts in the “comments” section below.




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Optical Illusions Create Art and Provoke Thought

Art is subjective. Individuals find themselves attracted to a certain artist, style, or theme when looking for art to inspire positive thought and decor. Upon finding the piece they consider, “just right,” one may seek to understand more about the particular picture or genre of art. However, they contrive their thoughts from a combination of what they already know, research, and see with their own two eyes.

In the early 1900’s this thought process was used to develop a new kind of art — completely subjective in form. It received the title, “op-art,” or optical art. This fresh form of art, not seen before the 20th century, used paint to create an interaction between a lively illusion and a picture plane, which is the flat canvas. Much of the art first produced in this genre (and some of the better known pieces) use only black and white paint or ink. As the art form expanded throughout the century, other elements of color and design were added.

This genre quickly evolved but remained true to its core: op-art is a perceptual experience that derives from manipulating typical visual functions. By painting an illusion onto a flat canvas there is a juxtaposition between what the eye expects to see and what it actually takes in. This is known as the figure-ground relationship.

Such a relationship exists because of edge assessment. For instance, when the boarderlines of one shape can be applied to both the outside of the shape and inside of another, an illusion is created. When placing this illusion on a flat, two-dimensional material, like a canvas, a human’s eye is especially baffled and the individual is likely to see the painting from more than one perspective.

But not all optical illusions are works of art. When an artist strives to deliberately challenge an observer’s eye with this figure-ground relationship, op-art is the goal in mind. In fact, the foundational elements of creating an artistic illusion are simple lines and patterns. With the use of color, op-art expanded because it used certain colors to change how the retina perceived an overall image.

This did not happen until the mid 1900’s, even though many artists trained in the op-art technique showed interest in applying color to their contrasting figure-ground paintings much earlier. Artists like Josef Albers, Bridget Riley, and  Julian Stanczak were eager to implement this element. Some time after color was introduced to op-art, photographers also became determined to produce op-art, in black and white, and in color photographs.

Op-art photography became popular in the 1970’s. However, this form of digital manipulation (that became easier with technological developments) lacked the foundational elements most important to op-art: Lines and patterns. For quite some time there was not enough subject matter for photographers to produce artistic illusions; lines and patterns were much easier to paint than capture.

This simplicity is what makes op-art a stroke of genius. It cannot be overlooked that the founders of this art, German artists who studied constructivist philosophy, believed thought provoking art could positively influence society. At the school of Bauhaus, where op-art first originated, great thinkers like Josef Albers developed a new way of seeing the world; by looking on both sides of the same line.

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