Albert Bierstadt was born in Germany in 1830, but brought to America at age two, where he was raised in New Bedford, MA. He returned to Düsseldorf at age 23 and studied painting there and in Rome until 1857. He made his first trip to the American West in 1859, accompanying Col. Frederick West Lander and his group across the Plains to the Rockies. He did oil studies and took many stereoview negatives of scenery and camp life from which he created paintings upon his return to New York. In 1860, he was made a National Academician; the same year, he formed a photography business in New York City with his two brothers, and they issued a catalogue of the western views that he had captured. He took a second trip to the Colorado Rockies and the Yosemite Valley in 1863, after which he began producing the vast, romantic landscapes that he became famous for. However, he also painted the wild animals of North America. During his most successful years, he built a 35-room castle in Irvington-on-the-Hudson, and also traveled frequently to the West and to Venice and Switzerland.
In 1882, his castle burned down, which was an eerie parallel to the decline of his reputation in the art world. His landscapes fell out of style, and his work was rejected by the Paris Expo of 1889 and the Columbian Expo of 1893 in Chicago. He was bankrupt when he died in 1902, and his place as one of the great American landscape painters was not restored until the 1970s. Today his work is exhibited and displayed throughout the United States.