The Last of the Buffalo

Albert Bierstadt

(American; b. Solingen, Germany, 1830–d. New York City, 1902)

Title: 

The Last of the Buffalo

Date: 

18881

Medium: 
Oil on canvas
Size: 

71 x 118 3/4 in. (180.3 x 301 cm)

Gift of Mary Stewart Bierstadt (Mrs. Albert Bierstadt)

Accession Number: 

09.12

In the 1870s, when American entrepreneurs found a market in the fashion industry for buffalo hide, hunters responded eagerly. By the time Bierstadt completed this canvas the buffalo was on the brink of extinction, as were the Plains Indian peoples that relied on it for their survival. The seemingly infinite number of buffalo seen here suggest that The Last of the Buffalo is less an historical document than a statement of memory and myth. Placing two of the most potent symbols of the West, the buffalo and the Native American, at the center of his painting, Bierstadt offered a carefully composed fiction celebrating what white civilization had helped to destroy.