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Unknown Artist (American, Nineteenth Century)
In the Yosemite, 1870-late 1880s
Oil on canvas, 30-1/4 x 25-1/4 in.
Signed (apocryphally) at lower left corner: A. Bierstadt.
August Heckscher Collection.  1959.19




About This Work

Yosemite Valley was discovered during a military expedition in central California in 1851. Recorded in large-scale photographs by Carleton Watkins in 1861, it became America's first state park in 1864. Inspired by the Watkins photographs, the artist Albert Bierstadt visited in 1863 with Fitz Hugh Ludlow who later recounted their expectations in Atlantic Monthly (June 1864):
If report was true, we were going to the original site of the Garden of Eden, - into a region which...surpassed the Alps in its waterfalls, and the Himmal'yeh in its precipices...the superiority of the Yo-Semite to the Alpine cataracts was a matter put beyond doubt by repeated judgements.

In the Yosemite, formerly attributed to Bierstadt, probably depicts the Merced River, the largest of the valley's streams with Yosemite's characteristic peaks seen in the background. The composition is a typical Yosemite view, with a broad low foreground in juxtaposition to the cliffs beyond, although the artist's loose technique reveals a romantic interpretation of the scenery that differs from the closely observed detail characteristic of Bierstadt's Yosemite works.



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