Adair’s Art Picks – Week 3

Adair Simpson

The Rocky Mountains, Lander’s Peak – Albert Biersdadt


Looks a bit like a Halo map, doesn’t it? The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York recently digitized 400 000 hi-res images of their art collection: this gem included.

The first thing that stands out is the colour. The green, brown, earthly tones of these native Indians populate the bottom, and slowly fade to white and blue as your eyes ascend the lovely vista.

Another distinct aspect is the range of depths in the painting. Bierstadt masterfully separates three clear planes, ranging in distance: the grass and lake, the waterfall, and the mountain. My favourite is the waterfall, as it glistens gloriously in the sun: golden slumbers indeed.

It’s a pretty painting, but there’s more to it: like most good art. This painting is from 1863, when the Civil War was at its peak. It is realist in technique, but surrealist in meaning, as the peaceful prairie scene is incongruously juxtaposed historically with the mass death of the American Civil War (1861-64).

Perhaps Bierstadt chose to paint this scene just because it’s pretty. I like to believe he was also trying to capture the peaceful, pre-colonialist nature of America. Either way, the painting does a lot for me; it’s very beautiful.