Image of painting titled Sunset in the Yosemite Valley

America’s Treasured Places

"Then it seemed to me the Sierra should be called ... the Range of Light ... the most divinely beautiful of all the mountain chains I have ever seen." John Muir

American landscape paintings in National Park Service collections capture the beauty of the nation's diverse regions. Western artwork portrays magnificent and rugged mountains, towering sequoias, arid plains studded with piñon trees and silver sagebrush, and shimmering hot deserts. Lakes, waterfalls, and dense forests are featured in Northeastern landscapes. Habitats vary from lushly tropical to dramatic natural phenomena.

Landscape art in America was popularized from the early nineteenth century, just as a young nation began to explore its expansive and varying geography and its relationship to the land. Many artists traveled beyond the Rocky Mountains to experience America's natural splendors. They sought to capture the drama and beauty of the West.

For some, western expansion fulfilled America's Manifest Destiny as railroads expanded to accommodate exploration, tourism, and settlement. For others, this expansion raised concerns for the displacement of Native Americans and the exploitation of natural resources.