Cover Art Description:
The power of artistic images to awaken the nation to the wonders of the trans-Mississippi West can only be estimated, but their impact was far reaching. Whether through the stereo views of post-Civil War photographers, the dramatically sublime scenes of some of the most famous painters of the age, or the subtly delicate paintings fashioned by such local artists as Ralph DeCamp, tens of thousands of people came to know the West as never before.
Among western artists making the greatest impact was Albert Bierstadt (1830-1902), the German-born, Dusseldorf Academy-trained master of landscapes. Bierstadt made many trips west, his first, as Alan and Jourdan Houston explain in their article beginning on page 50, with Frederick W. Lander in 1859. It was upon the work produced from that and subsequent trips that Bierstadt fashioned his reputation for creating powerful scenes of the American West. A tireless self-promoter, Bierstadt lobbied Congress and presidents for commissions and eventually created more than a score of large-scale canvasses that brought record prices. Shifting tastes in art and an aversion to his overweening self-promotion, however, led to his fall from favor. To counter waning fortunes, Bierstadt traveled to Yellowstone in 1881 to reestablish himself as one of the great painters of the West. Among his works was Lower Falls of Yellowstone (circa 1881, oil on paper, mounted on canvas, 19-1/4" x 13-1/2"), reproduced on the front cover courtesy the Georgia Museum of Art, University of Georgia, Athens.
From a different perspective, Ralph DeCamp also specialized in landscapes, and his Gates of the Mountains (circa 1935, oil on canvas, 36" x 59"), from the Montana Historical Society Museum collection, appears on the back cover.
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