Description: Sierras Near Lake Tahoe, California

Deer graze in this high valley in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  In the background, clouds mass dramatically over the peaks.

The painting was created in the artist’s New York studio in 1865 based upon sketches he made during a survey expedition in 1863.  The indigenous vegetation and volcanic rock are accurately depicted, and the mountains resemble the east side of the Sierras near Lake Tahoe.

While visually accurate, this pristine landscape without people presents an idealized view of the American West, and California in particular, as an idyllic haven.  With no inhabitants in sight, the painting reflects the contemporary notion of a Manifest Destiny which gave settlers the “right” to expand westward, taking over lands which had been occupied by Native Americans for millennia.

  • Artist: Albert Bierstadt, American, 1830–1902
  • Created: 1865
  • Credit Line: Clara and Edwin Strasenburgh Fund and Marion Stratton Gould Fund, 92.78