Albert Bierstadt's Old Faithful

Albert Bierstadt was fascinated by the geysers of Yellowstone. In all his life, he had never seen anything as captivating as these bubbly, explosive fountains. His painting of Old Faithful is one of his best works.

Old Faithful is a geological wonder with its consistent eruption schedule. It is not the largest or most regular geyser in Yellowstone National Park, yet it has become one of the most popular sites in Yellowstone. Albert Bierstadt, like tourists of today, was amazed by Old Faithful and his painting captures this feeling.

Albert Bierstadt was born in Germany in 1830 but moved to the United States at the age of one. Early on in his life, Bierstadt showed interest in art. To jumpstart his career he returned to Germany to study art and later trained with the Hudson River School in New York. The Hudson River School’s style was focused on grand paintings of landscapes with a glowing light. Using the skills he learned in his training, Bierstadt began painting landscapes in the West. Well-known for his works in Yosemite, Bierstadt decided he wanted to explore another American geological wonder. Though Albert Bierstadt was not on the Hayden Geographical Survey of 1872, he was visiting Yellowstone at the same time as Moran and Jackson. He also believed that he was a more accomplished artist than those on the Hayden Survey.

One of his grandest works in Yellowstone was his Old Faithful. As noted in the introduction, Bierstadt was enthralled by the geysers in Yellowstone. Peter Hassick expands on Bierstadt’s captivation, “Bierstadt’s admitted fascination with Yellowstone’s geysers is reflected in the number of paintings that he produced using them as themes. . . . Contrasted with his conventional, monumental landscapes infused with Claudian glow and other theatrical effects, these studies are intimate and naturalistic.”

Albert Bierstadt said of his experience in Yellowstone, “This is not the first season I have spent about the Rocky Mountains, but it is my first introduction to the geysers of the Yellowstone. To use the word wonderful is simply to use a relative term. But I have never been so impressed with the infinite divinity of the types of nature as I was by the same geysers. I went West with the fixed intention of spending the greater part of my time about the geysers, and also to study them as thoroughly as I could in the protracted period I had allotted to myself. I have always had an inclination towards geological studies, and here I had a whole world of geological phenomena spread before me.”

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