Albert Bierstadt (American, 1830–1902), a landscape painter who focused on the American West, was born in Solingen, Germany. His family migrated to Massachusetts in 1833, when he was just two years old, but he returned to Germany to study at the Düsseldorf School of Painting in 1853. While in Germany, he roomed with painter Worthington Whittredge (American, 1820–1910); the two travelled Europe together, and while in Switzerland, Bierstadt sketched the inspiration for Lake Lucerne. This painting was exhibited by the National Academy of Design in New York in 1858, and led to his being elected to the National Academy in 1860.
The artist taught briefly in Germany after finishing school. He moved back to the United States and travelled west with surveyor Frederick W. Lander (1821–1862) in 1859. While there, Bierstadt sketched much of what he saw and turned many of those sketches into oil paintings. Along with his brothers Charles and Edward, Bierstadt opened up a photography studio in New York in 1860, but it closed in 1866. He travelled west again in 1863 with author Fitz Hugh Ludlow (1836–1870), and continued to return to the West for inspiration as time went on.
Bierstadt painted pictures on oversized canvases that romanticized the Rocky Mountains, the Yosemite Valley, and the Native American tribes in the West. In 1867, Bierstadt married Ludlow's former wife Rosalie. In 1882, his studio was destroyed in a fire along with many of his sketches. Over his lifetime, he painted at least 500 paintings, including The Last of the Buffalo and Yosemite Valley, both of which have been featured on US postal stamps. The artist also mentored William Bliss Baker (American, 1859–1886), another landscape painter. Bierstadt was a member of the Hudson River School, a group of like-minded artists. Mount Bierstadt in Colorado is named after him. The artist died in Irving, NY, in 1902.