In the mid 19th century, a group of painters emerged whose artworks reflected a romanticized beauty in the landscapes they created. German-born Albert Bierstadt was one of these artists. He traveled west with the Frederick W. Lander Survey team in 1859 to document the “wild west.” His travels brought him through Nebraska along the Platte River where he spent time in the area south of Kearney, which eventually became the site of Ft. Kearny, built to protect travelers on the Oregon Trail. While on this trip, he made several “field sketches” such as the ones you see here entitled Clouds Coming Over the Plains and Clouds Over the Prairie. These paintings, also referred to as “plein-air sketches,” served as studies for his grand canvases that captured the interest of collectors and patrons in the east and sold for enormous sums of money.
By 1882 his fortunes began their decline and he soon lost favor with the public. In recent years, there has been a new appreciation of Albert Bierstadt, especially for the smaller oil studies that witness the accuracy and immediacy of the scenic landscape.