This year, I chose a Christmas postage stamp not a typical holiday issue. Those asking to look at all available postal stamps will discover a reproduction of Albert Bierstadt’s luminous 1864 landscape, “Valley of the Yosemite,” a most gorgeous image bathed in golden light.
Of course, Albert Bierstadt is best known for documenting the beauty of the American West in his paintings. Born in Germany, Bierstadt discovered the Rocky Mountain region and Yosemite while on Western Expansion expeditions. Bierstadt’s light stands alone, and he was considered the 19th century’s foremost painter of western landscapes.
Bierstadt’s work appealed to eastern collectors because he was a part of the Hudson River School, a group of artists painting highly romanticized works of New York’s Hudson River region. These paintings idealized nature, giving it biblical status, and revering it as a place not only created by a heavenly father, but as a link to the heavens. In other words, God and Nature were one. Mountains, lakes, rivers, valleys, forests and canyons were primary subject matter, and Bierstadt, a prodigious artist, painted them over and over.
If your cards are yet to be written or mailed, consider sending those envelopes off stamped with an iconic, moving portrait of the American West as it was, a century and a half ago.