DescriptionAlbert Bierstadt (American, 1830-1902)
Mount St. Helens, Columbia River, Oregon, 1889
Oil on canvas
18 x 32-1/2 inches (45.7 x 82.6 cm)
Signed lower left: ABierstadt
Property From the L.D. "Brink" Brinkman Collection
Sotheby Parke Bernet, New York, April 25, 1980, lot 170A;
(possibly) Acquired by the late owner from the above.
Portland Art Museum, Portland, Oregon, "Volcano! Mount St. Helens in Art," February 8-May 17, 2020.
S.H. McGarry, Honoring The Western Tradition: The L.D. "Brink" Brinkman Collection, Kerrville, Texas, 2003, p. 4, illustrated.
Mount St. Helens, Columbia River, Oregon depicts one of the distinctive volcanoes located in the Cascades, a western mountain range that extends from British Columbia, Canada, through Washington and Oregon and into Northern California. At the time it was painted in 1889, Albert Bierstadt was a highly successful, well-established artist with a national and international reputation. As one newspaper article stated on March 3, 1889, "Albert Bierstadt is a fixture in New York, moves along the upper crust of society and no longer has to work for a living with the brush." (San Francisco Chronicle, March 3, 1889, p. 14) Another article this same year said that the artist was "one of America's greatest painters," and that he was "a tireless worker and had made a fortune." ( St. Johnsbury Republican, St. Johnsbury, Vermont, August 1, 1889, p. 4)
Bierstadt was an indefatigable traveler. He set sail for Europe in March 1889, and by July, the artist was back home and preparing for three months of travel in the West to make studies for paintings. In late July, Bierstadt left for Canada by railroad traveling to Banff, Alberta, and then by steamer in August to Loring Bay, Alaska. From there he traveled back to Vancouver, Canada, and then, perhaps encouraged by the sale of one of his Mount Hood paintings earlier that year, he traveled south to Washington Territory and Oregon in September and October to sketch Mount Rainier, Mount Hood and Mount St. Helens.
Mount St. Helens, Columbia River, Oregon is a fine example of Bierstadt's skill as a landscapist. The viewer approaches the painting from the left where the top of a sloping hill offers firm footing. The colors of fall are seen in the foliage of the deciduous trees as two deer nestle in the deep grass. From there, the vista falls off into the valley below, where the Columbia River snakes its way through an intervening atmospheric haze. In the distance, bright and clear, the top of Mount St. Helens is covered in fresh snow. Bierstadt was enamored of the Northwest's snowy, iconic peaks, painting at least two dozen views of the volcanoes that dot the region. In Mount St. Helens, Columbia River, Oregon, Bierstadt's vantage point is purportedly from Mt. Mitchell, a smaller peak near Mount St. Helens. To the right is Mount Rainer and to the far right is Glacier Peak (Cheryl Mack, retired archaeologist for the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, identified the vantage point and confirmed the peaks depicted).
Bierstadt may have taken some artistic liberties with key geographical elements, making the exact location difficult to pin down. Still an active volcano, Mount St. Helens erupted in 1980 and much of the northern face of the mountain collapsed creating a huge crater, changing forever the mountain's profile as preserved in Bierstadt's 1889 majestic scene. Additionally, the notation of Oregon in the title is not unusual. It was common for Easterners to view the Pacific Northwest solely as Oregon; Washington did not become a state until November, 1889, after Bierstadt had returned home to New York.
We wish to thank Melissa Webster Speidel, President of the Bierstadt Foundation and Director of the Albert Bierstadt catalogue raisonné project, for her kind assistance in cataloguing this lot. This painting will be included in her forthcoming catalogue raisonné on the artist's work.
More information about Albert Bierstadt, also known as Bierstadt, Albert, .
Framed Dimensions 27.5 X 42 Inches
Buyer's Premium per Lot:
25% on the first $300,000 (minimum $49), plus 20% of any amount between $300,000 and $3,000,000, plus 12.5% of any amount over $3,000,000 per lot.