Oil on canvas
Original Purchase Fund from Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation, Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, ARCA Foundation, and Anne Cannon Forsyth, 1966.2.7
Landscape painter Albert Bierstadt claimed the American West as his artistic territory. His grand, romantic depictions of western scenes earned him success and popularity with audiences back east, who were eager to see images of the dramatic peaks and sparkling mountain lakes of California. In Sierra Nevada, a herd of deer has approached the edge of an azure lake for a drink. They are dwarfed by the redwood trees that tower over them. In the distance, rays of sunshine pierce through white clouds sailing past craggy gray mountains, and a waterfall plunges into the lake. There is little evidence of the presence of man—instead, Bierstadt presented an unspoiled Eden. Interestingly, though, by the time the artist created this painting, the transcontinental railroad had been completed, blasting through miles of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Bierstadt, who had traveled over the Sierra Nevada years earlier by stagecoach, was able, on this trip, to take a train.