The Importance of the Painting “The Last of the Buffalo”

The Importance of the Painting The Last of the Buffalo

Albert Bierstadt’s art The Last on the Buffalo is a treasure to remember and was originally featured in Points West Magazine in the Fall of 2011. It is an important painting that gives us a glimpse into the past. 

The painting is much more than about aesthetics and a great view. It elaborates a meaningful message that one is more likely to leave unfocused. Nature has given us a lot to cherish, but are we doing justice to it? 

To learn more about the same, tap into this lucrative segment that entails everything about this magnificent piece of art by Albert Bierstadt. Everything from its making to what makes it so unique is explained in this brief. 

About The Painting 

Albert Bierstadt most famous painting, The Last of the Buffalo, was painted in 1888. It is an oil on canvas currently housed in the West Building, Main Floor- Lobby C. The painting overall measures 180.3 by 301.63 cm. 

Bierstadt painter made this ambitious landscape by combining various elements during multiple western excursions. It entails a view from the composite nature, incorporating many topographical features that represent the Great Plains. 

There is a dead and injured buffalo in the foreground. The Buffalo occupies a dry and golden meadow. The fertile landscape dominates the visuals of the canvas. It nurtures a profusion of plains wildlife, exhibiting a vivid scene of elk, coyote, antelope, fox, rabbits, and a prairie dog at its lower left. 

Many animals are gazing at the focal group of a man on horseback. He is locked in combat with a charging buffalo. A subtle record of flora and fauna renders this confrontation. However, its backdrop is seemingly limitless, where herds belong to a romantic invention. Nevertheless, it is a rather accurate depiction of life on the frontier. 

Ideas Behind The Composition 

A band of indigenous Americans is riding horses through a herd of buffalo. The troop spreads along a vast river that winds long distances through plains to mountains in a horizontal landscape. Guarded with golden light in the foreground eventually warms the browns and harvests the yellow of the entire depiction.

The central idea focuses on plenty of dead and injured buffalo lying across the ground. Along with them lies the body of one hunter, not visible between the bodies of two animals. Beyond the corpses is one hunter riding a white rearing horse. On the opposite side of the rider are light brown skin and a feather headdress with long dark hair. He is dressed in a pumpkin-orange loincloth with red and orange bands encircling the ankle, thigh, wrist, and upper arm.

To make the narrative bold, relative, and strong, the artist pays deep attention to perfectly painting the whole scene. There is sage green grass growing in tufts on the dirt ground. It is littered with animal skulls around the charging buffalo and the rider. Another small buffalo and a prairie dog lie on the ground in the lower left corner. 

The landscape is dotted with hundreds of Buffalo along the banks of the river, and some wade in the water. A handful of trees rise on the plain, but the land remains flat until it reaches the cliffs along the horizon. A line of clouds or snow-covered mountains is scattered in the deep distance. A few beautifully painted white clouds float across the watery blue sky. Moreover, the artist signed the thin proficiency piece in the lower right corner: “Albert Bierstadt.”

What Makes This Albert Bierstadt Painting So Unique?

By the time Bierstadt chose to paint this iconic work of art, concentrating on Buffalo as its central theme, the buffalo was on the verge of extinction. The animals were reduced in population to only about 1,000 from 30 million. 

Scenes depicting buffalo skulls and other bones around the deadly battle were common. Focusing on this very artwork, one scholar comments on it as “a masterfully conceived fiction that addressed contemporary issues.” 

One other reference laments it as the destruction wrought by encroaching settlement. 

Hence, Albert Bierstadt’s works carry much more value than amplifying his artistic skills. They revealed a section of society that was evolving at a faster pace due to human interventions. Nature has its unique way of reacting to it; like this Buffalo, many species were on the verge of extinction. 

Overall, the painting puts light on the grim reality of this fast-changing world where human behavior leads to the exploitation of nature. Conservationists and preservationists are doing their bit, but without the support of the locals, it’s a long road to be traveled. 

The Bottom Line

Albert Bierstadt’s paintings are in themselves a big deal. Having not just tremendous value, the artist is known for delivering a strong impact with its narrative in visuals. 


Leave a reply