Artwork Information

  • Title:

    Indian Village

  • Artist:

    Bierstadt, Albert

  • Artist Bio:

    American, 1830–1902

  • Date:

    about 1859

  • Medium:

    Oil on paper

  • Dimensions:

    14 1/2 x 20 inches

  • Credit Line:

    Wichita Art Museum, Gift of Arthur W. Kincade in memory of his wife, Josephine

  • Object Number:


  • Display:

    Not Currently on Display

About the Artwork

Albert Bierstadt’s oil sketch of an adobe pueblo predates the Taos School, but it links the mania for the Southwest with the Romantic tradition of American landscape painting. Very early in the 19th century painters and writers identified America’s virgin territory as a unique national possession, tangible evidence of a great spiritual resource. They equated the uncultivated wilderness of mountains, lakes and forest with philosophical ideals of purity, goodness and wisdom. In the transcendental thought of the period the untouched landscape symbolized the New Jerusalem, a vision to be held in contrast to the too-often-conquered, exhausted terrain of Europe.

Unfortunately for the Romantic artist, the heirs to the New World undertook its domestication with unholy zeal. In a mere breath of time paradise was converted into farms, pasture, mines and lumber mills. Those artists, Bierstadt among them, who went in search of that sublime vision of nature once available in New England pushed ever westward, just one step ahead of the railroad and progress.

The Southwest attracted artists at the turn of the century precisely because it survived as a corner of the frontier where progress had been held in abeyance. The interested viewer is advised to consult a publication of the Kansas State Historical Society entitled Standing Rainbows: Railroad Promotion of Art, The West and Its Native People for three excellent essays on the subject.