Incorrect Username, Email, or Password
Vertical landscape painting of mountains, a distant waterfall, and sunlight beaming through dramatic clouds into a valley in lower center.

The darker painted foreground is outlined in a variety of pine trees following the contours of the mountainous landscape. Sunlight pours in dramatically from parting storm clouds at the top, filling a flat green valley in the center with light and atmosphere. Three distinct sunbeams light up the light purples, blues, and greens of the tall rocky mountains and a narrow waterfall in the distance. A river winds its way in the lower center within the valley. We see lingering fog hovering around the mountains on the left, in this placid and sublime scene.

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
View this object's location on our interactive map

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)


Recorded Ownership History
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

The Harvard Art Museums encourage the use of images found on this website for personal, noncommercial use, including educational and scholarly purposes. To request a higher resolution file of this image, please submit an online request.

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

Subjects and Contexts

  • Collection Highlights
  • Google Art Project
  • ReFrame

Related Articles

Related Works

Verification Level

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of European and American Art at