In this ongoing series for Fine Art Today, we take a longer look at the history and features of a soon-to-be-available artwork of note. This week: Albert Bierstadt, “Sunrise.”
Although he was born in Germany and would eventually study his craft there for several years, Albert Bierstadt (1830-1902) is widely recognized as one of America’s greatest artistic products and a founding member of the famed Hudson River School. Bierstadt’s parents moved to Massachusetts when Albert was just one year old, in 1831. From childhood, Bierstadt displayed a keen interest in and notable talent for art.
Bierstadt’s artistic career was officially launched around 1858, when an exhibited landscape at the National Academy of Design found instant appeal to critics. It was around this time that the artist came into contact with other like-minded artists who adored landscape painting with romantic, almost glowing light. Among them were Thomas Moran, Thomas Cole, Frederic Edwin Church, John Frederick Kensett, and Asher Durand. This group of painters would eventually be categorized as members of the Hudson River School.
Along with several other artists, Bierstadt began to travel with various companies and journeymen of the Westward Expansion. Bierstadt’s lavish views of the American West — including many areas that became national parks — enlivened the imaginations of his viewers and helped cultivate a desire to preserve these lands among the public.
Bierstadt’s financial success is noteworthy as well. In 1865, the artist’s magnificent work “The Rocky Mountains, Lander’s Peak” sold for an astronomical $25,000, the equivalent of around $350,000 in today’s market.
It seems collectors have eagerly bought up Bierstadt’s original works since their production, and the trend continues to this day. Opportunities to purchase an original work from this iconic figure are few and far between, which makes Thomaston Place Auction Galleries the place to be on August 27. Among a number of outstanding lots is Bierstadt’s magnificent “Sunrise” — which headlines the gallery’s “Summer Feature Auction.” This medium-sized work is without a doubt one of the artist’s masterful works and a rare scene that has a relatively shallow sense of space — a far cry from the expansive vistas the artist is known for. A warm golden light lifts over the still waters of a pond or river in mid-fall. The season is noted through the brilliant vermillion reds, oranges, and yellows in the waning leaves of the trees. The scene appears completely untouched, unblemished by the alteration of man’s hand.
“Sunrise” will be available on August 27 with an estimate of $250,000 to $350,000. To view the full catalogue, visit live auctioneers.
This article was featured in Fine Art Today, a weekly e-newsletter from Fine Art Connoisseur magazine. To start receiving Fine Art Today for free, click here.


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