Albert Bierstadt was born in Solingen, Germany on January 7, 1830. His family moved to Massachusetts, USA, in 1833. He studied painting with the members of the Dusseldorf School in Düsseldorf, Germany from 1853 to 1857. He taught drawing and painting briefly before devoting himself to painting.
Bierstadt was part of the Hudson River School, an informal group of like-minded painters. Their style involved carefully detailed paintings with romantic, almost glowing lighting, sometimes called luminism.
Bierstadt began making paintings in New England and upstate New York. In 1859, he traveled westward, returning with sketches that would result in numerous finished paintings. In 1863 he returned West again, in the company of the author Fitz Hugh Ludlow, whose wife he would later marry. He continued to visit the American West throughout his career.
Though his paintings sold for princely sums, Bierstadt was not held in particularly high esteem by critics of his day. His use of uncommonly large canvases was thought to be an egotistical indulgence, as his paintings would invariably dwarf those of his contemporaries when they were displayed together. The romanticism evident in his choices of subject and in his use of light was felt to be excessive by contemporary critics, a charge that continues to be leveled by many of today's art historians.
Nonetheless, his paintings remain popular. He was a prolific artist, having completed over 400 paintings during his lifetime, most of which have survived. Many are scattered through museums around the U.S.
Albert Bierstadt died on February 19, 1902.