Albert Bierstadt's Landscape Paintings
In the 1870s, the House acquired two monumental paintings—Discovery of the Hudson River and Entrance Into Monterey. They were painted by celebrated American artist Albert Bierstadt. Initially on view in the House Chamber, the two are historical scenes of exploration on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, set in grand landscapes.
Discovery of the Hudson River
Discovery of the Hudson River, installed in 1874, depicts explorer Henry Hudson sailing just above West Point, New York, in 1609. He and his crew approach a group of Native Americans on the shore. But it is not the Native people that give a clue as to what the explorers will find at their journey’s end. The rainbow above the landscape points the way to a new world and a source of great riches. Bierstadt, who resided in the Hudson River valley, thoughtfully provided local details such as Storm King and Crow’s Nest mountains, and Hudson’s well-known vessel, Half Moon.
Entrance into Monterey
Entrance Into Monterey was placed in the Chamber opposite Discovery of the Hudson River in 1878. Bierstadt shows a luminous scene from Monterey, California, just as Spanish settlers first arrive in 1602. The bay glows in the early morning light in the background. The grazing herd of domestic animals scattered across the foreground signals the beauty and bounty of the West. In the middle distance, Bierstadt depicts a Catholic Mass in progress under an oak tree, an event that reportedly took place the day after explorer Sebastian Vizcaino landed in Monterey.
The two landscapes remained in the House Chamber, on either side of the Speaker’s rostrum, until 1901, when they were moved to the House Grand staircases, adjoining the Speaker’s Lobby. Appropriately, the Discovery of the Hudson River was displayed in the east stairwell, and Entrance Into Monterey in the west. Discovery of the Hudson River was later moved to the Member’s Dining Room. In 2005, after nearly 130 years in the Capitol, both works were removed for conservation. These historic paintings, refreshed and repaired, came back on view in 2011, in the grand stairwell on the East Front of the Capitol, where they can again be seen by the visiting public.