Sundown at Yosemite

Albert Bierstadt

Puesta de sol en Yosemite

Bierstadt, Albert

Solingen, 1830 - Nueva York, 1902

Sundown in Yosemite, c. 1863

© Colección Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza

Signed lower right: ''A. Bierstadt'' [AB in monogram]
Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection on loan to the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum

Oil on canvas

30,5 x 40,6 cm


Artwork history

  • Private collection.

  • Kennedy Galleries, Inc., New York.

  • Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Lugano, 1980.

  • Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection on loan to the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid.


De Canaletto a Kandinsky. Obras maestras de la Colección Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, nº 40, p. 124.


Capolavori dalla Collezione di Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza: 60º anniversario dell'apertura della Pinacotecca di Villa Favorita, Lugano, Villa Favorita, nº 47, p. 136.


Del vedutismo a las primeras vanguardias. Obras maestras de la Colección Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, Bilbao, Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao, nº 10, p. 80.

1998 - 1999

Masterworks from the Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Tokyo, Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum; Takaoka, Takaoka Art Museum; Nagoya, Matsuzaka Art Museum; Sendai, Miyagi Museum of Art, nº 16, p. 50.


Aspectos de la tradición paisajística en la Colección Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, Málaga, Salas de Exposiciones del Palacio Episcopal, nº 39, p. 140.

1999 - 2000

Naturalezas pintadas de Brueghel a Van Gogh. Pintura naturalista en la Colección Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, nº 18, p. 78.

2000 - 2001

Explorar el Edén. Paisaje americano del siglo XIX, Madrid, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, nº 36, p. 145.


Paraísos y paisajes en la Colección Carmen Thyssen. De Brueghel a Gauguin, Málaga, Museo Carmen Thyssen Málaga, nº 13, p. 92, illus. p. 93.

2015 - 2016

La ilusión del Lejano Oeste. 3 November 2015- 7 January 2016. Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid. Cat. 14, pp. 47.


La ilusión del “Far West”. Colección Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza y Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza. Del 25 June- 30 October 2016. Espai Carmen Thyssen, Sant Feliu de Guixols, Cat. 14, pp. 47.

2016 - 2017

La Ilusión del Lejano Oeste. Museo Carmen Thyssen Málaga.19 November 2016 - 19 March 2017. Cat. 14, p. 47.

  • -Novak, Barbara: Nineteenth-Century American Painting: The Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection. Ellis, Elizabeth Garrity… [et al.]. London, Sotheby´s Publications, 1986 , nº 66, p. 210, illus. [Sheet by Elizabeth Garrity Ellis].

  • -Storm Nagy, E.: Europa e America. Dipinti e acquerelli dell’ Ottocento e del Novecento dalla Collezione Thyssen-Bornemisza. Guida delle opere esposte. Milan, 1993, nº 2, p. 23, illus.

  • -Colección Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza. Arnaldo, Javier (ed.). 2 vols. Madrid, Fundación Colección Thyssen-Bornemisza, 2004, vol. 1, p. 254, illus. p. 255 [Sheet by Elizabeth Garrity Ellis].

  • -La ilusión del Lejano Oeste.  3 November 2015 -7 February 2016. Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid. Cat. 14, pp. 47.

  • -La Ilusión del Lejano Oeste. Museo Carmen Thyssen Málaga, 2016. (Exhib. Cat.), Cat. 14, p. 47 (photo).

Expert report

“If report was true, we were going to the original site of the Garden of Eden”, wrote Fitz Hugh Ludlow of his excursion with Bierstadt to Yosemite Valley, the primary objective of the artist’s second Western journey in 1863. First reached by tourists in 1855, the sublime scenery of the “Great Yosemite” had inspired several travel accounts. The most vivid was Thomas Starr King’s series of letters to the Boston Evening Transcript from December 1860 to February 1861. Descending into the Valley, surrounded by serrated precipices and thundering waterfalls, he exulted, “Every rod of the ride awakens wonder, awe, and a solemn joy.” King, a Unitarian minister who had moved to California from Boston, met Bierstadt and Ludlow when they arrived in San Francisco in July and originally had planned to accompany them to Yosemite.

Ludlow was dazzled by the Valley: “Far to the westward, widening more and more, it opens into the bosom of great mountain-ranges-into a field of perfect light, misty by its own excesses-into an unspeakable suffusion of glory created from the phoenix-pile of the dying sun.” These were the effects Bierstadt sought to capture in small, quickly-worked oil sketches such as Sundown at Yosemite made during his seven weeks in the Valley. As Ludlow recorded: “Sitting in their divine workshop.our artists began to labour in that only method which can ever make a true painter or a living landscape -colour- studies on the spot.”

The flaming sunset breaking through granite walls in Sundown at Yosemite and in large compositions based on these studies, such as Sunset in Yosemite Valley(1868, Pioneer Museum and Haggin Galleries, Stockton, CA) was a popular symbol of the millenial destiny of the West. Two decades before tourists discovered the Valley, a writer argued: “This western world had not been preserved unknown through so many ages, for any purpose less sublime, than to be opened, at a certain stage of history, to become the theatre wherein better principles might have their action and free development.” Revealed during the dark years of the Civil War, the sublime landscape of Yosemite roused this rhetoric to a new pitch. King, an ardent Unionist, invoked the prophecy of Habakkuk to describe Yosemite Valley: “Thou didst cleave the earth with rivers.”

Elizabeth Garrity Ellis