Curator‘s Comments

Raised in New Bedford, Massachusetts, Bierstadt is best known for his panoramic views of the American West. For many years, Echo Lake was thought to be such a scene. However, in the summer of 1860, Bierstadt had helped his brothers, photographers Edward and Charles, select views for a book on the natural wonders of the White Mountains of New Hampshire, including Echo Lake. Comparison of their photographs with this painting led to identification of the site.

The popular tourist attraction of Echo Lake was described in guidebooks of the day as “visited by many from nearby hotels, and by boating parties; often one sees a ‘flotilla’ of white row boats …” Bierstadt omitted all signs of human presence in this picture, focusing instead on the drama of sunlight breaking through the clouds and mist rising from the river. Like other Hudson River School painters, many of whom painted in the White Mountains, Bierstadt interpreted the American wilderness as a manifestation of divine presence and favor.

Echo Lake, Franconia Mountains, New Hampshire

Albert Bierstadt. American, 1830–1902

Echo Lake, Franconia Mountains, New Hampshire, 1861

Oil on canvas

Purchased with the assistance of funds given by Mrs. John Stewart Dalrymple (Bernice Barber, class of 1910)

ID Number: SC 1960:37