This night time scene was painted in 1869 by Albert Bierstadt, a German artist who was drawn to the American frontier as were many other Germans in the 19th century. The painting shows a group of Oregon bound pioneers and captures the romance of the American West. Its a glimpse of the pioneers at a campsite alongside a shimmering river, under a canopy of large trees trees, and all of lit by the warm glow of the campfire. A full moon is visible in the clear sky.
Albert Bierstadt and other talented German artists sought to capture the romance of the west. Bierstadt was known for his large landscapes of the American West….Emmanuel Leutze, for his painting of “George Washington crossing the Delaware”…. Karl Wimar painted beautiful images of American Indians…. and John Gast portrayed American progress with his “Spirit of the Frontier”
John Gast painted a popular scene of people moving west that captured the view of Americans at the time. Called “Spirit of the Frontier” and widely distributed as an engraving, it portrayed settlers moving west, guided and protected by a goddess-like figure of Columbia and aided by technology (railways, telegraphs), driving Native Americans and bison into obscurity. It is also important to note that the angel is bringing the “light” as witnessed on the eastern side of the painting as she travels towards the “darkened” west.