Cloud Effect, Estes Park, Coloradoc. 1863-75 by
Bierstadt, Albert 1830-1902
Cloud Effect is probably one of the many studies Bierstadt made during his visits to Estes Park in preparation for a large painting of Longs Peak commissioned by Windham Thomas Wyndham-Quin, fourth Earl of Dunraven. Long an admirer of the artist's Western views, Wyndham-Quin wanted a painting for his house in Limerick, Ireland, to remind him of his vast land holdings in the Colorado Rockies. Bierstadt went to see and sketch the park in late December 1876. He began working on the 5-by-8-foot painting the following spring, making a second visit to the Rockies in the summer of 1877 for the opening of the earl's hotel. Given the summer appearance of Cloud Effects, it most likely dates from his second trip. In his ramblings, Bierstadt must have stopped to capture this picturesque sight of clouds settling on a distant mountain (perhaps Longs Peak or Mount Meeker) glimpsed thought closer trees and hills. It bears no resemblance to the specific land formations visible in Wyndham-Quin's Rocky Mountains, Longs Peak (Denver Public Library), which the artist had completed by the end of 1877.
Bierstadt's numerous field sketches attest to his physical hardiness and persistence in seeking the most striking views. The sketches range from schematic pencil notations to rapid color studies to the more finished and composed type seen here. In making them, the artist was less concerned with specific details than with overall massing of forms, colors, and light effects. Since Cloud Effect is painted to the edges of the paper, it gives the impression of a completed work, but it is more freely handled and smaller than his finished paintings.
The paper is slightly smaller than the canvas on which it is mounted, so the canvas was painted by someone to expand the composition to the edge of the frame. Examination of the sketch under black light shows that the trees in the middle ground were painted later than those farther back, implying that this painting was reworked at a later date.
Size (inches): 13 7/8 x 19 3/4
Medium: Oil on paper mounted on canvas
Location: Not on Display