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Albert Bierstadt: Puget Sound on the Pacific Coast: A Superb Vision of Dreamland
Synopses & Reviews
In 1870, Albert Bierstadt painted one of the most novel subjects of his career: Puget Sound on the Pacific Coast. The canvas resulted from newly reawakened interest in a region the artist had visited only briefly seven years before. Although Bierstadt claimed to have painted "a portrait of the place," he had never actually made it to Puget Sound in 1863 and the painting has long been dismissed as another "superb vision of dreamland."
This book reveals the fact-within-the-fiction of Bierstadt's spectacular, eight-foot-wide view of Puget Sound. It follows his travels around the Washington Territory in 1863, travels that were far more extensive than previously known. It identifies the artist's source material in Northwest Coast native artifacts, early historical accounts of the region, and the sketches he made on the Columbia River and Washington and Vancouver Island coasts. It compels us to reconsider the function of the painting--to see it not as a landscape, but as a historical work, a narrative of an ancient maritime people, and a rumination, on the ages-old mountains, basaltic rocks, dense woods, glacial rivers, and surf-pounded shores that have given this region its look and also shaped its culture.
Patricia Junker is the Ann M. Barwick Curator of American Art at the Seattle Art Museum.
Book News Annotation:
Bierstadt, who painted large, imaginative landscapes, visited the west coast of the US in 1860, afterwards painting a highly romantic, imaginary view of Puget Sound. The centerpiece of an exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum in 2011, the painting receives in-depth discussion in this well-illustrated, slim, oversized catalog (9x12"). Bierstadt's travels, his method of composition, the importance of Carleton Watkins' photographs of the area, and comparative works supplement the discussion of the painting. Includes a bibliography, but no index. Distributed by the U. of Washington Press. Annotation ©2011 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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