Looking and Discussing
Grade: 6–8; 9–12
Subject: Art, Language Arts, Social Studies
During the time the painting Sunrise, Yosemite Valley was
made, America was viewed as the world’s “new Eden.”
What is it about the painting that supports the idea that this landscape
is like the Garden of Eden?
Artists can use color and light to express an idea or feeling. Describe
the effects created by the color and light in this painting of Yosemite.
What time of day do you think it is? What do you see in the painting
that makes you say this?
What abstract concepts might be associated with sunrise or sunset?
(Sunrise is associated with a new day, regeneration, and hope. Sunset
is associated with the ending of a day, closure, relaxation, and
What direction does the light lead your eyes in the scene? If you
were to step into this painting, where would you go? Why?
How has Bierstadt used light in this painting? What kind of mood
has he created by using this light?
Look at the painting On
the Cache La Poudre River, Colorado by Worthington Whittredge
and compare and contrast it to Sunrise, Yosemite Valley
by Bierstadt. Consider how the older Whittredge may have influenced
the style and composition of Bierstadt, who spent time with him
in Germany during the early days of his career. (Notice the artists’
treatment of the trees, and how each artist’s angle of view
invites the viewer to step into the landscape.)
Grade: 4–5; 6–8
Subject: Language Arts, Social Studies
Proposal for a National Park
Based on what you see in Bierstadt’s painting, write a persuasive
letter to Congress about the need to establish a national park surrounding
Yosemite Valley. Why should this area be protected from commercial
development? What benefits would a national park bring to citizens?
How should it be used? Research the history of the formation of
the national parks.
Camping in California—A Journal
In the 1860s most people lived east of the Mississippi River and
had not traveled as far west as California. Based on what you can
see in Sunrise, Yosemite Valley, imagine what it would
be like to camp in this California terrain. Make a list of the equipment
needed, mode of travel, and food to bring or find along the way.
Extend this activity by considering what it is like to camp in Yosemite
today. You may want to use the student activity sheet Then
and Now in the Activities section.
Grade: 4–5; 6–8
Subject: Art, Social Studies
What makes this painting dramatic—the use of color, diagonal
lines versus horizontal lines, overlapping? Color can also help
to give the illusion of deep space. Where has Bierstadt used dark
values to imply depth?
Have students create their own dramatic landscape making preliminary
sketches with pencil and crayon, deciding what they want in the
foreground, middle ground, and background. Encourage them to keep
the basic components—trees, water, sky, clouds, and overlapping
Link to TEKS Connections