During Arcy Douglass' Artist Talk at the Portland Art Museum about Albert Bierstadt's Mount Hood on December 10, Douglass mentioned that the USPS had included one of Albert Bierstadt's painting as part of a commemorative stamp series entitled "American Treasures". That comment drove me to the internet to find out which painting. The painting they chose Looking Down Yosemite Valley, California serves to trigger in each of us who has seen Yosemite our own memories of that incredibly beautiful valley. Bierstadt had travelled west to experience Yosemite in person after having seen Carlton Watkins photographs. He spent seven weeks in the area and fell under its spell, painting Looking Down Yosemite Valley, California in 1865. At nearly 5 x 8 feet, the painting is typical of Bierstadt's style. The Picturing America website has this to say about Bierstadt and Yosemite.
Bierstadt possessed an uncanny understanding of what Americans in his time wanted to believe was waiting for them on the western frontier: a Garden of Eden blessed by God, untouched by civil war, and holding the promise of a new beginning. His romantic paintings embody the collective hope that a remote landscape could heal a nation’s wounds. The preservationist (and Sierra Club founder) John Muir, Bierstadt’s near-contemporary, affirmed the idea that the Yosemite Valley could refresh the spirit: “The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy,” he promised prospective tourists, “while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.”How you might ask could all of this be linked to Blueberry Hill? The internet is truly a seamless web. It turns out that not only was Bierstadt's Yosemite Valley painting included as part of the USPS commemorative stamp series but it was also included as part of a scene in Terry Gilliam's 1995 film "Twelve Monkeys", accompanied by several doctors singing Blueberry Hill. The list of vocal artists who have sung that song is quite long and includes Gene Autry, Elvis Presley, Elton John, and the Rolling Stones. One of my favorites is by Bruce Cockburn and can be listened to here in his slowed down version with Margo Timmins, the lead vocalist of the Canadian band Cowboy Junkies.