A favourite subject, the North American park in California featured in many of his most prominent works from the peak years of his career. Upon his journey to the west in the second half of the 19th century, Bierstadt appeared to find the great subject of his career in the vast landscapes of the Californian wilderness. Trips to 'Great Yosemite' had become a popular pastime by the 1850s and Bierstadt was one of many intrepid travellers to journey and enjoy what the landscapes had to offer.
Immersing himself in is beauty, Bierstadt famously came to describe Yosemite as the 'Garden of Eden', and this combination of natural beauty and biblical, mystical wonder can be seen across all of the Californian paintings that the artist produced during this time. Sundown At Yosemite, as the title suggests, depicts a striking captured moment of the sunset across the mountains, freezing in time a moment of natural wonder that only a few at the time were able to experience in such serenity.
The palette of colours is the standout feature of the piece, starting with pastel blues in the top left corner that morph into dramatic sunshine oranges in the central portion of the canvas. The large surface of water depicted in the middle of the scene provides a stunning natural mirror for the fiery tones, with the presence of a trio of cattle cleverly included to provide a great sense of scale to the landscape.
The lush greenery at the forefront of the canvas alludes to the as of then untouched and unblemished scenery. In many ways, Sundown at Yosemite can be regarded as a perfect snapshot of the great American landscape before the dawn of industrialisation and invasion by developers and visitors. Returning full circle to Bierstadt's 'Garden of Eden' comments, the dramatic reds and oranges that overwhelm the canvas can certainly be said to evoke a biblical kind of awe, with the crowning sun appearing from the background ready to bask in what Bierstadt believed to be one of God's greatest creations in bright glory. Others notable artworks from his career included Donner Lake from the Summit, Among the Sierra Nevada Mountains California and Emigrants Crossing the Plains.
Sundown At Yosemite by Albert Bierstadt can currently be seen in person at the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid, Spain. The painting can be found in Room B and has been loaned by the Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection to the museum housed in the rather magnificent Villahermosa Palace.