Albert Bierstadt (American, born Germany, 1830–1902),
The Trappers, Lake Tahoe
oil on canvas, 19 ½ x 27 ¾ in.; 49.53 x 70.49 cm
Gift of Mrs. Harold Gifford, 1961.430
Bierstadt is better known for his grand landscapes, but he also painted many scenes of Indian and frontier life. Here Bierstadt is taking advantage of the public fascination with the romantic adventure of the short-lived fur trade era. Two shadowy figures launch a small vessel into the unknown perils of a vast lake under an incredible, sun-reddened sky. Bierstadt tells us that they are trappers, and thereby identifies them with the fearlessness and strong wilderness capabilities of Jim Bridger, Joseph Walker, and Kit Carson; these are men equipped to survive any danger (and take advantage of any opportunity) that might lie ahead.