Sunset, Salt Lake will be included in Melissa Speidel’s forthcoming catalogue raisonne of Albert Bierstadt’s works. A letter from Melissa Speidel will accompany this lot.
Provenance: Nicholas Martin Matthews, Baltimore, MD. Private Collection, Virginia. (circa 1920)
Born in Germany, near Dusseldorf, Albert Bierstadt was brought as a child to the bustling whaling town of New Bedford, Massachusetts. Early artistic prowess led to formal training in Germany–back in Dusseldorf, in fact. Immersion in the aesthetics of Dusseldorf’s High German Romanticism and its counterpart in American Transcendentalism–think Goethe, Beethoven, Wagner, Cooper, Melville–prepared him to transform the American West and wilderness into art.
Success came quickly to Bierstadt after he set up his studio in New York. From the surreal–yet very real–majesty of the American Rockies, Bierstadt created panoramic landscapes combining elements of the beautiful and the sublime that captured the popular imagination.
Inspired to travel to the West after hearing a lecture by Bayard Taylor, a famed writer and traveler of the day, Bierstadt manages to secure a place in the 1859 Lander Expedition to the Rocky Mountains. The splash Bierstadt’s paintings make on his return to New York acts as respite from the terrible rupture of the Civil War and he is soon on his way West again, this time with Fitz Hugh Ludlow, a rising literary star, who sends back dispatches to popular periodicals. Bierstadt and Ludlow become bitter foes. Ludlow sinks into opium addiction. His career falters. His marriage ends. Bierstadt falls in love with and marries Ludlow’s ex-wife, Rosalie. Nevertheless, in 1870, Ludlow manages to complete an important book chronicling their adventures–The Heart of A Continent. One of the places they visited in 1863 was Brigham Young’s Salt Lake City. Ludlow’s descriptions of the Great Salt lake in his book align with Bierstadt’s luminous painting, Sunset, Salt Lake. As you read the following excerpts, imagine the writer and the artist, having floated in the saline lake, having hiked and explored, having examined rocks and caves, flora and fauna, racing now, each in his respective medium, to capture the fleeting light, colors, and contours of the scene. “Nothing on the palette of Nature is lovelier,” Ludlow begins, “more incapable of rendition by mere words, than the rose-pink hue of the mountains… hues which in full daylight are as positive ruby, coral, garnet, and carnelian,–at sunset and in twilight as positive amethyst, jacinth, topaz, and opal… “Never had Nature a greater surprise for us. The view was one of the most charming which could be imagined. Its elements of sublimity were many, but beauty was its most impressive characteristic… On our left and western side, as we faced the sea, the lateral ranges of the Oquirrh decreased in height until they melted into vapory streaks of pale turquoise on the far horizon, their northward terminations forming bold headlands, or long, low, promontories, with dreamy bays setting back into the indentations of the coast between them.” (Ludlow, pp. 381-382.)
In excellent condition. No apparent evidence of inpaint under UV light. No problems to note. Appears to have never been cleaned and should benefit greatly from a cleaning.
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