Albert Bierstadt, was born in Solingen, Germany. He was only about two years old when his family moved from Germany to New Bedford in Massachusetts. In 1853 he returned to Germany to study in Dusseldorf, where he refined his technical abilities by painting Alpine landscapes. After he returned to America in 1857, he joined an overland survey expedition which allowed him to travel westward across the country.
Along the route, he took countless photographs and made sketches of the majestic mountain ranges and dramatic rock formations which became the studies for his massive canvasses painted in his New York studio. In December 1857 the Boston Athenaeum bought one of his works, The Portico of Octavia Rome, thus assuring his career.
more of his biography here http://www.albertbierstadt.org/biography.html
I am thinking I may have featured this artist's work before-I love his paintings