Sunrise in the Sierras and Yann Martel

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Albert Bierstadt, Sunrise in the Sierras, 1872

“If Christ spent an anguished night in prayer, if He burst out from the Cross, 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?' then surely we are also permitted doubt. But we must move on. To choose doubt as a philosophy of life is akin to choosing immobility as a means of transportation.” - Life of Pi, Yann Martel

When I read Life of Pi, I was so inspired by the theme of religion that I was immediately transported to the children's sanctuary where I belted so many hymns as an elementary school student. I specifically recall the lines to one song in particular that says ,"Though the sorrow may last through the night, the joy comes in the morning." This sense of hope came to me as an image of a sunrise, but what I fell in love with about this particular sunrise, is the despair that looms at the bottom that so perfectly captures the feeling of doubt that Martel talks about. Bierstadt perfectly materializes the sense of hope that Yann Martel describes through emphasis of the coming of a new day.


The lower third of the painting is harsh and undefined, with wide horizontal strokes that provides a contrast with the definition of the mountain peaks. Slightly higher up, the strokes become softer and smaller, which transition the eye to the beautiful orange and blue of the new day. In addition, the snow on the peaks represents the possibility of life that comes with having hope. Though it is easy to get caught up in the chaotic blur of navy and black that is doubt, Bierstadt ultimately captures the beauty and hope of life that comes with each new day.

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