Photo © President and Fellows of Harvard College
Gallery Text

This painting is based on sketches that Bierstadt completed in 1859 while serving on a U.S. government survey expedition led by Frederic W. Lander. Upon his return to New York, Bierstadt painted the work, which presents a composite scene rather than an accurate topographical rendering. Notably absent from the landscape are the Eastern Shoshone people, who have lived in and around the depicted Wind River Mountain Range for thousands of years.

Though the artist met and sketched Shoshone Tribe members during the survey, by omitting them from this landscape Bierstadt visually reinforced the false and harmful myth of the “vanishing Indian.” He presents the American West as a new Eden, bathed in rays of heavenly sunlight. This representation promoted the doctrine of Manifest Destiny, which was used to justify removal and genocide of Indigenous peoples in the name of divinely sanctioned westward expansion.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
Albert Bierstadt, American (Solingen (near Dusseldorf), Germany 1830 - 1902 New York, NY)
Rocky Mountains, "Lander's Peak"
Work Type
Persistent Link
Level 2, Room 2100, European and American Art, 17th–19th century, Centuries of Tradition, Changing Times: Art for an Uncertain Age
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Physical Descriptions
Oil on linen
110.8 x 90.2 cm (43 5/8 x 35 1/2 in.)
frame: 146.4 x 126.4 x 10.8 cm (57 5/8 x 49 3/4 x 4 1/4 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • Signed: l.l.: A. Bierstadt 63 (AB in monogram)
Acquired by William Hayes Fogg, New York; his bequest to his wife, Mrs. William Hayes Fogg, 1884; her bequest to Fogg Art Museum, 1895.

Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Bequest of Mrs. William Hayes Fogg
Accession Year
Object Number
European and American Art
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Publication History

Fogg Art Museum and Benjamin Rowland, Jr., Real and Ideal in American Art, exh. cat. (Cambridge, MA, Summer 1948), cat. 22 as "Landscape in the Rockies"

Richard S. Trump, "Life and Works of Albert Bierstadt" (Thesis, Ohio State University, 1963), Unpublished and Ohio State University, 217

Gordon Hendricks, "The First Three Western Journeys of Albert Bierstadt", The Art Bulletin, College Art Association of America (September 1964), vol. XLVI, no. 3, pp. 333-65, pp. 333-365; reproduced fig. 5

Paintings, Drawings, and Sculpture from the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, exh. cat., Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven, 1967), n.p.

Peter T. Harstad, "The Lander Trail", Idaho Yesterdays, Idaho State Historical Society (Boise, ID, Fall 1968), vol. XII, no. 3, cover

Barbara Novak, "American Landscape: The Nationalist Garden and the Holy Book", Art In America (January 1972 - February 1972), pp. 46-57, reproduced p. 47, color

Louise Todd Ambler and Kenyon Castle Bolton, III, "American Painting at Harvard", Antiques (New York, NY, November 1972), vol. 102, no. 5, pp. 876-883, p. 877, pl. 1

Kenyon Castle Bolton, III, Peter G. Huenink, Earl A. Powell III, Harry Z. Rand, and Nanette C. Sexton, American Art at Harvard, exh. cat., Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 1972), cat. 74, ill.

Gordon Hendricks, Albert Bierstadt: Painter of the American West, exh. cat., Harry N. Abrams, Inc./Amon Carter Museum (Fort Worth, TX, 1974), cl-113

Jonathan L. Fairbanks, Frontier America: The Far West, exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Boston, MA, 1975), p. 63, cat. 72, ill.; p. 216; back cover, ill.

John Wilmerding, "Harvard and American Art", Apollo (June 1978), vol. CVII, no. 196, pp. 490-495, p. 491 ,pl. XXI

Celeste Marie Adams and Franklin Kelly, America: Art and the West, exh. cat., American-Australian Foundation for the Arts/Int'l Cultural Corp. of Aus. Ltd (New York, NY, 1986), p. 26 and footnote p. 29; reproduced, color, no. 19 and detail

Chris Bruce, ed., Myth of the West, Rizzoli/The Henry Art Gallery, Univ. of Washington (New York and Seattle, WA, 1990), p. 62; reproduced, color, p. 66

Marjorie B. Cohn, "A Slow Start for American Art at the Fogg", Harvard University Art Museums Review (Fall 1992), vol. II, no. 1, p. 3, p. 3, fn. 6

Masterpieces of world art : Fogg Art Museum, Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Busch-Reisinger Museum, 1997

Jean Clair, ed., Cosmos: From Romanticism to the Avant-Garde, exh. cat., The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (Montreal, Canada, 1999), pp. 82-3, illustr. in b/w

Andrew Wilton and Tim Barringer, American Sublime: Landscape Painting in the United States, 1820-1880, exh. cat., Tate Gallery Publishing Limited (London and Princeton, NJ, 2002), pp. 230-231, cat. 89, ill.

Gabriella Belli and Paola Giacomoni, Montagna: Arte, scienza, mito da Durer a Warhol (Milan, Italy, 2003), p. 196

Alain De Boton, The Art of Travel, Penguin Books (London, 2003), repr. on p. 160

John Updike, Still Looking: Essays on American Art, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. (New York, 2005), pp. 41-43, ill. opp. p. 43

E.D. Hirsch, Jr., What Your Fifth Grader Needs to Know: Fundamentals of a Good Fifth-Grade Education, Doubleday Anchor Books (2005), repr. on p. 189

Kimberly Orcutt, "Personal Collecting Meets Institutional Vision: The Origins of Harvard's Fogg Art Museum", Journal of the History of Collections (2006), vol. 18, no. 2, pp. 267-284, p. 270; p. 271, fig. 3; p. 274

Barbara Novak, Nature and Culture: American Landscape and Painting, 1825-1875, Oxford University Press (NY) (New York, NY, 2007), pl. 3, ill.

Theodore E. Stebbins, Jr., Virginia Anderson, and Kimberly Orcutt, ed., American Paintings at Harvard, Volume Two, Paintings, Drawings, Pastels and Stained Glass by Artists Born 1826-1856, Harvard Art Museums and Yale University Press (U.S.) (Cambridge, MA and New Haven, CT, 2008), p. 44, cat. 21, ill. p. 46

Stephan Wolohojian and Alvin L. Clark, Jr., Harvard Art Museum/ Handbook, ed. Stephan Wolohojian, Harvard Art Museum (Cambridge, 2008), ill. p. 156

Judy Murray and Ray Williams, Engaging New Americans, Preparing for US Citizenship with the Harvard Art Museums, Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2012), ill. p. 44

Theodore E. Stebbins, Jr. and Melissa Renn, American Paintings at Harvard, Volume One: Paintings, Watercolors, and Pastels by Artists Born before 1826, Yale University Press (U.S.) and Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge and New Haven, 2014), p. 26

Exhibition History

Real and Ideal in American Art, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 06/01/1948 - 09/01/1948

Paintings, Drawings, Sculpture from the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, 10/12/1967 - 12/03/1967

The American Vision: Painting 1825-1875, Rosenberg Gallery, New York, 10/08/1968 - 11/02/1968

American Art at Harvard, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 04/19/1972 - 06/18/1972

The American Landscape, Arts Club of Chicago, Chicago, 11/15/1973 - 12/30/1973

Frontier American, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Boston, 01/23/1975 - 03/16/1975; Denver Art Museum, Denver, 04/16/1975 - 06/01/1975; Fine Arts Gallery of San Diego, San Diego, 07/02/1975 - 08/17/1975; Rockhill Nelson Gallery of Art, Kansas City, 09/17/1975 - 11/02/1975; Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee, 12/05/1975 - 01/18/1976

America: Art and the West, Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth, 12/11/1986 - 01/21/1987; Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 02/06/1987 - 04/05/1987

Myth of the West, Henry Art Gallery, Seattle, 09/14/1990 - 11/25/1990

The Persistence of Memory: Continuity and Change in American Cultures, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 07/29/1995 - 05/13/2001

American Sublime: Landscape Painting in the United States 1820-1880, Tate Britain, London, 02/21/2002 - 05/19/2002

32Q: 2100 19th Century, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

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