Born in Solingen, Germany, near Düsseldorf, on January 7, 1830, Bierstadt was the fourth son of Christina M. Tillmans and Henry Bierstadt. At the age of two, Albert and his family moved to New Bedford, Massachusetts. No records exist of any formal art training in his youth, and it is widely believed that he was self-taught during his formative years. By the age of 20, he advertised himself as a skilled instructor of monochromatic painting. As he was considered an amateur artist, his fee of three dollars per day was extremely self-assured. Doubling as an instructor, he began to exhibit his first works in the small art circles of New Bedford.
Realizing that his chances for a successful career as an artist were limited in New Bedford, the young painter traveled to Düsseldorf to further his art education. His mother’s cousin, Johann Hasenclever—a leading painter, had promised to familiarize Bierstadt with the style of the renowned Düsseldorf Academy. Upon arrival, Bierstadt learned of Hasenclever’s death, yet he continued in his quest to learn the techniques of the area’s influential painters. The Düsseldorf School encouraged the use of dramatic lighting and meticulous brushstrokes which together, added a polished finish to paintings. Throughout his career, Bierstadt stayed true to this style, even when the buying public lost interest in his work.