Discovering Hartise: Albert Bierstadt

As a child, long before I considered writing, I dreamed and I fantasized, for the world could become all I wished it to be if I used my imagination, and my imagination was my secret hideaway. Sometimes I’d browse the pictures in encyclopedias, some images planting seeds that later resurfaced and helped create the world that became Ontyre.

(1) Valley in Kings Canyon

(1) Valley in Kings Canyon

Fantasy art was a rare thing in those days, though years later I discovered science fiction book covers and album cover art (Yes and the Moody Blues, for instance). But first came the random paintings displayed in those A through Z volumes. Years later, when my world building commenced, I discovered that many of the paintings that inspired me were by the same artist: Albert Bierstadt (b. 1830, d. 1902).

(2) Wind River Mountains

(2) Wind River Mountains

Bierstadt was a German-American artist of the Hudson River School who was best known for his massive landscapes of the American West, particularly the Rocky Mountains, Sierra Nevada Mountains, and Yosemite Valley. Critics disliked his penchant for luminescence and billowing clouds. Too, some considered his work overly romanticized.

(3) Kerns River Valley

(3) Kerns River Valley

I, on the other hand, felt the awe he was attempting to convey even while recognizing that his work had a nearly otherworldly quality. In a sense his work was a forerunner of the fantasy art that’s so easily found online these days.

Besides, I consider myself a digital age romanticist to a degree.

(4) Mt. Rainier

(4) Mt. Rainier

  • Valley in Kings Canyon (1) became Winter Lake at the southern edge of the Colossus Range, viewed from the southwest below Thain and looking northeast.
  • Wind River Mountains (2) became shallow, meandering Wanderer’s Stream, the view looking northeast towards the Colossus Range.
  • Kerns River Valley (3) became the southern end of the Rift River Canyon near Rough Water looking north.
  • The mountain towering over all others that’s visible from great distances, (4) Mt. Rainier, became Beacon Peak in the Lost Hills, which is technically outside Hartise.

    Bierstadt influences on Northeastern Hartise and the Lost Hills.

    Bierstadt influences on Northeastern Hartise and the Lost Hills.

I didn’t sit with the pictures beside me while I worked on the map, but in the back of my mind I knew where the inspiration originated.

Bierstadt was a rediscovered, non-writer influence, but there were countless more, some sadly forgotten, yet forever appreciated. Over time I’ll explore others who’ve impacted my work.

Anyone have influences they’d like to share, be they for writing or any other craft or art? Please share.


About Ontyre Passages

Alive and well in the Rocky Mountains. I'm a fantasy writer who also dabbles in poetry, short stories, and map making. My Ontyre tales are an alternative fantasy experience, the stories rich in mystery, adventure, and romance. Alternative fantasy? Not quite steampunk. Not quite gothic. In truth, the real magic is in those who discover what's within.
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4 Responses to Discovering Hartise: Albert Bierstadt

  1. I wasn’t familiar with Bierstadt’s work until I read this post. I can see how his paintings would influence your world building. I was also a fan of fantasy artists when I was younger and remember the artwork of Roger Dean’s Yes albums. Other favourites included Rodney Mathews and Boris Vallejo who influenced me to write and paint. I think images you come across when you’re a child stay with you for the rest of your life and you never stop looking for the worlds from which they came.

    • Oh, a great comment! I completely agree. And I do remember the Yes covers. I also remember the music. I agree that what influences you as a child stays with you into adulthood and you either search for it or try to recreate it. Perhaps some of that creativity comes from the disappoint that follows discovering some of those worlds aren’t real? That might be true in some cases. Over the years true fantasy art has influenced me, though I’m not as familiar with individual artists as you clearly are. You are truly fortunate if you have the talent to paint such worlds. That’s a wonderful gift.

  2. Tricia Ann says:

    I also wasn’t familiar with Bierstadt’s art, but it is beautiful and I can see why it inspires you!

    • It’s a romantic style and that means that it’s a little over dramatized, but beholding it as a child the first time it was mesmerizing. Still is. It’s larger than life with a touch of spirituality.

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