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The Best Material for the Artist in the World

The Best Material for the Artist in the World

By Kenneth Chamlee Publisher: Stephen F. Austin University PressISBN: 978-1-62288-948-8Genre: Poetry Price: $20.00
Available from: The PublisherAmazon

This poetic biography tracks the life and career of landscape artist Albert Bierstadt, whose 19th-century representations of the American west earned him wealth and international acclaim. Relaying the story primarily through Bierstadt’s voice, these narrative, lyric, and ekphrastic poems touch the momentum of the developing west, the devastation of native tribes and great buffalo herds, and the resiliency of Bierstadt’s art in our time of environmental awareness and expansionist reappraisal.

Kenneth Chamlee is the author of If Not These Things (Kelsay Books, 2022) and The Best Material for the Artist in the World (Stephen F. Austin University Press, 2023 ), a poetic biography of 19th century American landscape painter Albert Bierstadt. His poems have appeared in The North Carolina Literary Review, Tar River Poetry, Cold Mountain Review, Pinesong, Kakalak, and in many other places. Ken is a 2023 Gilbert-Chappell Distinguished Poet for the North Carolina Poetry Society. He is Emeritus Professor of English at Brevard College in North Carolina and holds a Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro.


In the nineteenth century the paintings of Albert Bierstadt brought to canvas and to the world the grandeur of the Rocky Mountains and High Sierra. The poems of The Best Material for the Artist in the World by Kenneth Chamlee celebrate the timeless splendor of Bierstadt’s work through the witness of many voices and points of view, … bringing us into intimate contact with the art, and the context of family and history in which the unique art was created.

Robert Morgan, author of Lions of the West and New York Times bestseller Gap Creek

The fifty-two beautifully voiced poems bring [Bierstadt], his contemporaries, the West, and our notions of the man and his work to full illumination….This is a fantastic arc of a life; all the high and low points are here. The final poems, especially the poet’s impressions, bring the arc full circle.

Bob Joly, Director, St. Johnsbury Athenaeum

[A] work of brilliance and depth. Chamlee offers us his version of a complicated human being set in the context of the world in which he traveled, that included mud and mosquitoes as well as beauty on a heroic scale…. His poems are sober, evocative, and respectful, and they overflow with their own penetrating light, illuminating both the man and an era of exuberant expansion when the vast, wild western half of North America was being claimed and was beginning to be lost.

Bob Ross, author of Billy Above the Roofs