“Nature and National Identity”: Bierstadt Comes to New Bedford!

Mark your calendars for June 3, the opening date of a new exhibit at the New Bedford Art Museum/Artworks! The exhibit features the works of landscape painter Albert Bierstadt.  NMSC’s Laurel Racine helped develop the exhibit, which is a collaborative effort on the part of New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park, the New Bedford Art Museum/Artworks!, the New Bedford Free Public Library, and AHA! (Art, History, and Architecture).  

[The following blog post written by Laurel Racine.]

A project we’ve been working on since fall 2013 will come to fruition in New Bedford, MA, this summer with the opening of Bierstadt:  Nature and National Identity on Friday, June 3.  The exhibit celebrates the 2016 centennial of the National Park Service and is a collaboration between New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park and its partners, the New Bedford Art Museum/Artworks!, New Bedford Free Public Library, and AHA! (Art, History, and Architecture).

Landscape painter Albert Bierstadt was born in Germany but grew up in New Bedford from a very early age.  He went back to Germany to study painting in 1853 and returned to the city with great acclaim in 1857.  He staged the first art exhibit in New Bedford in 1858.  Starting in the 1860s he made several trips to the American west to paint the natural wonders he saw including scenes in what is today’s national parks.  His large-scale, dramatic landscapes introduced the American public to these scenes and factored into the creation of the national parks and their guardian, the National Park Service (NPS), which celebrates its centennial this year.

During development of the exhibit, NMSC Senior Curator Laurel Racine served as the liaison with the NPS coordinating loans and catalog writers.  The exhibit  will feature a Bierstadt painting from Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller NHP in Vermont, a western painting and Santa Clara vase from Saint-Gaudens NHS in New Hampshire, Carleton Watkins photographs from Longfellow House-Washington’s Headquarters NHS in Massachusetts, and artist’s tools from Weir Farm NHS in Connecticut.  Laurel edited the catalog which features two scholarly works on Bierstadt and six short essays by NPS employees on stewardship, art, museum collections, and youth.

view of grand tetons

Albert Bierstadt, View of the Grand Tetons, Oil on canvas, 21” x 42 7/8,”Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park.

grizzly giant

Carleton Watkins, Section of the Grizzly Giant, 33 Feet Diameter, Mariposa Grove, 1861, Albumen print, 21 1/2” x 27 ½,” Longfellow House-George Washington Headquarters National Historic Site.


Laurel and NMSC Volunteer Photographer Norm Eggert recently hit the road to photograph for the catalog Bierstadt paintings (some which have never been exhibited!) and Watkins photographs in the greater Boston area.  It was a treat to see the artworks individually before they come together for the big show.

The exhibit will run from June 3 to September 18 at the New Bedford Art Museum/Artworks! at 608 Pleasant Street in New Bedford.  There will be approximately 50 items in the show dating from the 19th to 21st centuries including engravings, posters, stereographs, John James Audubon prints, Carleton Watkins photographs, Bierstadt paintings large and small, artist’s tools, and a stereograph camera.  The accompanying catalog is available for purchase.  The opening reception is Friday, June 3 5:00-9:00 PM.

find your park

Find Your Park, 2016, Poster, 68″ x 31 1/4″, Courtesy of the National Park Foundation and National Park Service.


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One Response to “Nature and National Identity”: Bierstadt Comes to New Bedford!

  1. Pingback: NMSC: Our Best of 2016! | NMSC Archeology & Museum Blog

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