|American Paintings — Albert Bierstadt - Fishing Boats Off the Southern Italian Coast|
|Albert Bierstadt - Fishing Boats Off the Southern Italian Coast
Albert Bierstadt Oil Paintings
Medium: Oil on board
Dimensions: Framed sizee 22 1/2 x 17 1/2 inches
In 1830, Albert Bierstadt was born in Solingen, near Düsseldorf, in the German Rhineland. Two years later his family emigrated to America, settling in New Bedford, Massachusetts, where his father established himself as a barrel maker. Little is known of Bierstadt's early training but by the age of twenty he was supporting himself by teaching "monochromatic" painting, and his work was beginning to attract the attention of New Bedford collectors. Spurred on by his preliminary successes, in 1850 he exhibited thirteen paintings and one drawing in an exhibition at Boston. In December of the same year the Boston Athenaeum bought one of Bierstadt's works, The Portico of Octavia Rome, thus assuring the young painter's career.
Bierstadt's painting style and choice of composition were perhaps products of four years of study, beginning in 1853, at Düsseldorf Art Academy in Germany. Here, the Romantic movement in painting, which was sweeping across Europe, was at its height and Bierstadt found himself under the influence of the contemporary German painters Carl Friedrich Lessing and Andreas Aachenbach who were widely admired for their heroic, highly finished landscape compositions. During this time, Bierstadt also began to associate with such American artists as Worthington Whittredge and Carl Wimar, all of whom frequently gathered in the studio of the German-American history painter, Emanuel Leutze.
The American painters made full use of their education abroad and Bierstadt traveled along the Rhine, the Alps and throughout Italy, often in the company of Whittredge, Sanford Gifford and William Stanley Haseltine. In the late spring and summer of 1857, Bierstadt visited Southern Italy with Sanford Robinson Gifford and painted an extensive series of studies of this particular coastline. Gifford recorded the journey in his diary, providing a full account of the pair's adventures.
By May 24, Gifford and Bierstadt were in Naples, on the first excursion of their southward journey from Rome. Here they bought colors and visited Ischia, the Sybil's Cave, Pompeii and Vesuvius before setting off for a month's sojourn in Capri. At Capri the pair registered at the Hotel Pagano (where they were charged 64 cents a day) and began painting and sketching the magnificent coast in earnest between June 1st, 1857 and the 26th of the same month. Gifford and Bierstadt were often to be seen sketching on the Piccola and Grand Marinas.
On the morning of June 26th, they left Capri for Sorrento but foul weather forced them to land at Massa and continue their journey on foot, traveling fifteen miles over the mountains to Amalfi, where they stayed at the Albergo dei Cappuccini. Again they sketched and bathed in the sea. Visits to Ravello, Salerno, and Paestrum followed.
On July 1 they took the boat back to Naples and four days later Gifford sailed for Leghorn, leaving Bierstadt behind. Bierstadt did not apparently return to the United States until late in the summer when the New Bedford Daily Mercury announced his arrival on September 3, 1857.
Along the coast of Italy, Bierstadt found preparatory models for what he would later see on California's Pacific shore. He was also able to develop a style that was to subsume the second-generation exponents of the Hudson River School. As can be seen in this striking painting, Bierstadt used aerial perspective, dramatic light effects and reduced the visibility of his brushstrokes to create a poetic atmosphere which envelops the viewer of the painting. The spectacular white sails of the boats cut across the brilliant blues of the sea and the sky.
The sophisticated simplicity of the composition marks this as a masterpiece by one of America's great master painters.