Monet, Bierstadt, And

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorCollege, Undergraduate November 2001

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An important time period in America was, at the same time, an aesthetic milestone in France. In the mid 1800's, the concept of Manifest Destiny drew Americans farther away from England, conquering the new and uncharted land of the west. Glorious Manifest Destiny... a belief that "higher powers" were responsible for our expansion and conquering. As one compares art, namely two landscapes from this time period, he should keep in mind that Americans were striving to become strong hearted, focused and structured, while, at the same time, France was becoming open to new approaches and techniques. Two paintings that exemplify this diversity are Bierstadt's "Among the Sierra Nevada Mountains", and Monet's "Le Bassin d' Argenteuil".

At first glance, one would never expect these works of art to be of the same time period. Bierstadt's mountains reflect his highly refined skill, inherited from his father and executed during his career as a surveyor.1

The only visual similarity this painting shares with that of Monet's "Le Bassin d' Argenteuil" is the fact that they are both oil painted landscapes. In reality however, there is a fine thread that links these two pieces. This paper will discuss the origins of both paintings, including the technique, purpose, style, and social history. By doing so, the reader may discover how the pieces reflect the different environments in which they were created. While Monet's impressionistic work is from a genre of breaking rules, Bierstadt's was painted when order and structure were the requirement. The idea of structure, which actually organized the first colonies, flew like a hurricane across the western part of the continent. In 1863, Bierstadt made his second survey trip west, accompanied by the writer Fitz High Ludlow.2 Traveling by stagecoach and on horseback, the team reached California in...