The Charles Hosmer - Morse Museum of American Art

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Collection Highlights

Highlights / Paintings

Previous Next <em>Butterfly</em>

Butterfly, 1887
Oil on paper
Albert Bierstadt, American, 1830–1902
Gift of Theodore E. and Susan Cragg Stebbins
4 7/8 × 7 3/4 in.

Hudson River School artist Albert Bierstadt enjoyed hosting gatherings and would often give souvenirs to his guests to take home with them—small handmade keepsakes that varied from seashells he embellished with paint to his beloved butterflies, one of which is depicted here. About two dozen of Bierstadt’s butterflies survive, each one signed and dated by the artist. In this instance, the work is inscribed with the recipient’s name, “For Mrs. Mott,” as well as the date of the gathering, “Mar 28/87.” In 1892, a reporter attending an event hosted by Bierstadt recounted the artist’s process for creating such works—of which she was a happy recipient:

“We women were so glad we were women that afternoon, for Mr. Bierstadt presented each lady with a souvenir. This is how he made them. We all clustered about the table and he took out a palette, a knife and some large slips of cartridge paper. Two or three daubs of pigment on the paper, a quick fold, and holding it still folded against a pane of glass, he made two or three strokes of that wizard-like palette knife on the outside, and hey, presto! a wonderful Brazilian butterfly or moth, even the veining on the wings complete! A pencil touch added the antennae, the artist’s autograph was added to the corner, and now we each of us own a painting by Bierstadt.”