Image of painting titled Tower Falls and Sulphur Mountain -Yellowstone

The American West

“It was during one of the darkest hours, before Sherman had begun the march upon Atlanta or Grant his terrible movement through the Wilderness, when the paintings of Bierstadt and the photographs of Watkins, both productions of the War time, had given to the people on the Atlantic some idea of the sublimity of the Yosemite...”
Frederick Law Olmsted, 1864

Artists of the nineteenth century played a key role in helping to heal the nation following the Civil War. Beginning with pioneering photographer Carleton Watkins (1829–1916) and his impressive portfolio of Western landscape prints, many artists provided visual evidence of the majesty of the American West. Most Americans could not imagine the drama of western landscapes until artists like Thomas Moran and Albert Bierstadt, inspired by Watkins, traveled west and documented the grand vistas on canvas.

These artists made the panoramic landscapes and natural phenomena of the West accessible to the general public. Moran's extraordinary artwork captured Yellowstone's unusual terrain and natural features. A skilled illustrator and an admirer of English artist John M. W. Turner, Moran also painted several areas that later became national parks, including the Grand Canyon.

On returning home, some artists took their paintings on tour, charging admission to see the painted wonders of the West. Most who came to see the paintings had not traveled west and were amazed by what they saw. These works of art shaped how viewers perceived these magnificent scenes and fostered the movement to conserve the natural world.


Image of painting titled Winter Evening in Yosemite Valley

Image of painting titled (Grand Canyon Scene at Eastern End of Canyon)