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Painter Albert Bierstadt - captures Yosemite Indian Life

Discussion about Yosemite National Park history, including Native Americans, Euro-American pioneers and settlement, and establishment as a national park.

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Painter Albert Bierstadt - captures Yosemite Indian Life

Postby Yosemite_Indian » Sat May 03, 2008 2:45 pm


Albert Bierstadt (1830-1902) was born in Germany and as a child his family moved to America and settled in the northeast.

He became one of the most prolific naturalist painters of his day. Many of Bierstadt’s paintings are very well known and he painted sweeping spectacular landscapes and captured life before mass immigration into the west, when much of the west was unsettled and untouched. Some of his paintings were massive. Some of Bierstadt's paintings were as big as 6 feet by 10 feet.

At the height of his career Albert Bierstadt lived in a huge mansion, but later on he died poor in a New York City flat. But Bierstadt left a legacy of the Wild West that he captured forever in his paintings. On one of his trips into the West Bierstadt traveled to Yosemite Valley and painted many beautiful scenes of the valley.

One of the places and scenes that Albert Bierstadt captured in oils was a Paiute camp in the center of Yosemite Valley next to the Merced River around 1872.


Here is Albert Bierstadt’s painting of the camp in Yosemite.

Below is a close up of the Albert Bierstadt’s painting of the Paiute Indian camp in Yosemite Valley. A Paiute person is speaking to a group as young men race horses in the background. Bierstadt's painting shows early Paiute Native American life in Yosemite along the Merced River.


Another great man of this time, interestingly, was at the same Paiute camp in Yosemite at the same exact time. Not a painter like Albert Bierstadt, but the famous British photographer Eadweard Muybridge. Eadweard Muybridge's early photographs of Yosemite are also very famous. On this occasion Muybridge captured the famous German painter Albert Bierstadt in a couple of his photos of the Paiute camp. In two of Muybridge’s photographs Bierstadt appears to painting Paiutes.


Here Albert Bierstadt appears to be painting someone. The person in front of the "Piute Chief's lodge", in the white shirt and hat appears to be Capt. John, leader of the Yosemite-Mono Lake Paiutes.


Here Bierstadt appears to painting or drawing the same Paiute Indian camp that later became the painting above.

Here is the whole Muybridge photograph sequence in order on this site;


So it appears at one moment in time two great geniuses of the art world, one a great painter and the other a great photographer, met in the West at one of my people’s camp. Both of them captured a moment in time in the life of my Paiute people in Yosemite Valley. We Yosemite - Mono Lake Paiute thank both of these great artists of paint and photography who captured my people in their daily life in the scenic Yosemite Valley as they have lived for centuries before any immigrants entered the area.


Iconic Yosemite Valley painting by Albert Bierstadt
Chief Tenaya was the founder of the Paiute Colony of Ahwahnee
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