Masterpiece Stories

Painting of the Week: Albert Bierstadt, Sunlight and Shadow

Alexandra Kiely 27 May 2018 min Read

Sunlight and Shadow is a beautiful painting made by Albert Bierstadt in 1862. It shows a chapel at the Castle of Lowenburg, in Wilhelmshöhe, Germany. However, the real subject of the painting seems to be the beautiful effects of light and shade.

[caption id="attachment_12730" align="alignnone" width="855"]Sunlight and Shadow by Albert Bierstadt Albert Bierstadt, Sunlight and Shadow, 1862. Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco - de Young.[/caption] Bierstadt (1830-1902) is well-known to art lovers as a Hudson River School painter who made large and dramatic scenes of America's western frontier. However, Bierstadt was actually born in Germany. He moved to the United States when he was only two years old, but he returned at the age of twenty-three to study art. It was common in this time for ambitious American painters to study in Germany. While he was there, Bierstadt made a beautiful oil sketch of the Lowenburg chapel (see below). [caption id="attachment_12729" align="aligncenter" width="686"]Bierstadt Sunlight and Shadow: Study Albert Bierstadt, Sunlight and Shadow: Study, 1855. Newark, NJ, the Newark Museum.[/caption] Several years after returning to America, Bierstadt used the sketch to make a full painting of Sunlight and Shadow. As you can see, he changed the composition a little bit from the sketch, but the two works are otherwise very close. In both cases, it seems that the beautiful light is the real subject of the piece, and the title definitely suggests that as well. The lovely Gothic chapel is a screen for the light to play off, and the tree is a filter to create all those beautiful shadows. Bierstadt was very, very good at painting light, and his famous landscapes of the American west are known for their gorgeous lighting effects. In this painting, the dappled sunlight on the church's wall looks so warm and real that it's easy to think you are looking out a window onto the real thing.

Find out more:

[easyazon_image align="none" height="160" identifier="0806160047" locale="US" src="https://www.dailyartmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/51novcFvEL.SL160.jpg" tag="dailyartdaily-20" width="148"] [easyazon_image align="none" height="160" identifier="0295991240" locale="US" src="https://www.dailyartmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/517IxWts2BHL.SL160.jpg" tag="dailyartdaily-20" width="122"]

Recommended

Piet Mondrian, Composition with Red, Blue and Yellow, 1930, Kunsthaus Zürich, Switzerland. Detail. Masterpiece Stories

Masterpiece Story: Piet Mondrian, Composition with Red, Blue and Yellow

Composition with Red, Blue and Yellow is a golden example of Abstraction, De Stijl, and Constructivism. It purges the art of individual subjects by...

James W Singer 17 January 2022

Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara, ca 1766-1833, lacquered gilt wood, Vietnam, Musée Guimet, Paris, France. Detail. Masterpiece Stories

Masterpiece Stories: Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara

Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara was donated to the Musée Guimet in 1889 by French archeologist Gustave Dumoutier. It represents the blissful blending of...

James W Singer 3 January 2022

Pieter Bruegel the Elder, The Peasant Wedding, 1567 Masterpiece Stories

Masterpiece Story: The Peasant Wedding by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

The Kunsthistorisches Museum, meaning the Museum of Art History, is located in Vienna, Austria. It is the largest art gallery in the country, housing...

Anastasia Manioudaki 19 December 2021

Kūka’ilimoku, ca 1795-1822, ʻŌhiʻa lehua Wood, Kawaihae, Hawai’i, British Museum, London, UK. Detail. Masterpiece Stories

Masterpiece Stories: Kūka’ilimoku

Kūka’ilimoku is a masterpiece of Hawaiian art. It is an artistic icon of Hawai’i, Polynesia, and Oceania. With so little Oceanic art displayed...

James W Singer 9 December 2021