Kenneth Chamlee is drawn to the work of renowned 19th-century American landscape painter, Albert Bierstadt. Born in Germany, Bierstadt came to America with his parents at age two. During his apprenticeship, the young artist polished his craft depicting European scenery, but the Rocky Mountains and Yosemite Valley became the subjects driving his expansive, often romanticized sense of landscape. Though best known for large-scale paintings with atmospheric trees and ethereal lighting, Bierstadt was also a master of intimate detail and animal portraiture.
Chamlee’s biography-in-poems follows the arc of Bierstadt’s life and career, from youth to extraordinary success to eventual decline. Primarily in the artist’s voice, the poems also present other important characters, renderings of specific paintings, and the poet’s own sense of engagement through research and museum visits. With realistic description and emotional embrace, the poems reveal Bierstadt’s determination to depict a glorious post-war West, as well as a growing recognition of personal and historical loss.
In the slideshow below, you can see a sample of Albert Bierstadt's work. The paintings shown are in the public domain.
Buffalo Trail: The Impending Storm (Corcoran Collection, National Gallery of Art)