“Looking Down Yosemite Valley, California” by Albert Bierstadt

Hudson-River-School_Yosemite.jpg As a member of the Hudson River Art school Albert Bierstadt worked with landscapes on a grand scale. I noticed other Hudson-School artists often leave the backgrounds of their paintings with very little empty space. Rather the background is usually a fading panorama of the landscape. The dull features and diffuse light indicate distance, and imply the same detail that is present in the foreground. The negative space in the picture is very busy.                                                                                                                                                                          It is interesting how the artist uses warm colors over the softer greens and greys to imply a setting or rising sun. I wonder if the color in the painting would look strange without the sky to tell the viewer the image is at dusk/dawn. I also noticed how powerful the rare uses of white were in this painting. The water is instantly recognizable with the sun’s glare. Looking at the spot of white on the sun in this picture feels really really bright, almost straining to my eyes. It seems like a lot of the richness of this painting comes from the use of a big color palate. It is also through intense color contrast that the foreground seems to have so much depth. Figures in certain colors like red and grey seem to have more clear dimension than those in yellow and green. There is a nice contrast between the hard, well-defined strait lines of the cliffs, and the soft, curving lines of the valley and the water. The trees against the left ridge line and fore-right seem to fade into the mountains, with no painted line between the trees and cliff/valley. Here the brain sees what it wants to see, and fills in the trees. This artist is really a master of illusion. It reminds me of how my mind fills in details of what I’m seeing that aren’t actually there when I look at a real landscape that is huge.The shaded area on the right of the painting contains more black and dark colors that other sections, but lies behind the most forward objects. I find it interesting that the artist developed the same sense of dimension and distance on both sides of the painting, but used completely different lighting.

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