I opened up this morning’s Boston Globe and, amidst the headlines of recession, pop culture and sports, found a 6 column photo of a painting by Albert Bierstadt entitled “The Coming Storm.” The painting was a bucolic representation of all things good in the American West during the time in which it was painted, in 1869. As the Globe’s staff writer Sebastian Smee points out, “Bierstady specialized in presenting the American West as an airy, gilded theater for Manifest Destiny.” Reading further, Smee notes that at the time of the Transcontinental railroad came closer to being completed, Bierstadt was commissioned by railroad magnate Collins Huntington “to celebrate the achievement with… a 6 by 10 foot canvas called ‘Donner Lake from the Summit.’”
The painting includes the original transcontinental line that runs along the Schallenberger Ridge in the right hand frame, Donner Lake at center. At present time, I80 would be running behind the mountains to the left, Donner Summit Road & bridge would be where the road is in the right hand of the frame and I assume Sugarbowl Ski Area would be in the foreground. The now covered, and unused, tracks would be follow the original line. So what’s the point of this art history lesson? Well this is the same area that I visited last season while shooting with Moment athletes Scott Nikkel and K.C. Deane in the Tahoe area. The same train line that inspired Bierstadt’s painting (by way of Huntington) was the same inspiration for us to setup and shoot in that area. You can see more of it in their web series: “In the Moment.”
How many other lines can be scoped from paintings dating back to the late 19th century?