Sanford Robinson Gifford, N. A.

(10 July 1823 - 29 August 1880)

Born in Saratoga County, N. Y. When a child he removed with his family to Hudson. He studied in New York City, painting in the studio of John R. Smith. In 1850 he went abroad, visiting London and Paris and other continental cities. On his return he settled in New York, and was made an Associate of the National Academy of Design shortly after, and Academician in 1854. In 1860 he made another European visit, sketching along the Rhine, in Italy, Switzerland, Egypt, and the Nile.

"Gifford has an opulent sense of color, but its tone is artificial and strained; often of a lively or deep brimstone tint, as if he saw the landscape through stained glasses. His touch is vigorous, his design more forcible than accurate, and his style as a whole conventional and untrue, but manifesting qualities attractive to those who, having outgrown the merely mechanical and literal, have not yet familiarized their minds with the highest aims and efforts of art." -- Jarves, Art Idea.

"There is a peculiar magnetism in Gifford's style of manipulation that attracts the eye, let the scene be ever so commonplace 'Venice,' like all of Mr. Gifford's pictures, is remarkable for the exquisite tenderness of its tone and the brilliancy of picturesque effect in the few objects introduced." -- Art Journal, July, 1876.

"Mr. S. R. Gifford was represented by his 'Sunrise on the Sea-Shore,' of which it may be said that the sea and its solitude has seldom inspired a more profound motive, or one more adequately rendered, than in this picture. 'Tivoli' and 'Lake Geneva' are no less admirable, but with a very distinct sentiment, and 'Pallanza, Lago Maggiore' has a full-flooded sense of light, modified by tone that is in every respect masterly in treatment. Two pictures by the same artist, 'Fishing-Boats of the Adriatic' and 'San Giorgio, Venice,' are as strong and pronounced in color as the former works are delicate and suggestive. This artist is varied in his powers, and sustained, free, and finished in his methods. His pictures always manifest great elevation of thought and feeling. They are the interpretation of the profounder sentiments of Nature rather than of her superficial aspects." -- Prof. Weir's Official Report of the American Centennial Exhibition.

Artists of the Nineteenth Century, their Work & Biographical Sketches. By Clara Erskine Clement & Laurence Hutton, 1879.
Mouseover to Enlarge
Detail from group portrait Civil War Civil War Union Army 1861

GIFFORD, Sandford Robinson, an American landscape painter, was born at Greenfield, in Saratoga county, New York, in 1823. He studied art at Hudson, New York, where he was influenced by the works of Thomas Cole, and in the National Academy of Design, New York. In 1850 he visited England and the Continent, and on his return, in 1851, he was elected an Associate of the National Academy, and became a full member three years later. He subsequently, in 1860, started on a journey through parts of Europe, Asia, and Africa, and in 1870 he visited the Rocky Mountains. His works bear ample proof of the results of his travels.

Bryan's dictionary of painters and engravers, 1903

Gifford was born in Greenfield, New York and spent his childhood in Hudson, New York, the son of an iron foundry owner. He attended Brown University 1842-44, where he joined Delta Phi, before leaving to study art in New York City in 1845. He studied drawing, perspective and anatomy under the direction of the British watercolorist and drawing-master, John R. Smith. He also studied the human figure in anatomy classes at the Crosby Street Medical college and took drawing classes at the National Academy of Design. By 1847 he was sufficiently skilled at painting to exhibit his first landscape at the National Academy and was elected an associate in 1851, an Academician in 1854. Thereafter Gifford devoted himself to landscape painting, becoming one of the finest artists of the early Hudson River School.

Like most Hudson River School artists, Gifford traveled extensively to find scenic landscapes to sketch and paint. In addition to exploring New England, upstate New York and New Jersey, Gifford made extensive trips abroad. He first traveled to Europe from 1855 to 1857, to study European art and sketch subjects for future paintings. During this trip Gifford also met and traveled extensively with Albert Bierstadt and Worthington Whittredge.

In 1858, he traveled to Vermont, "apparently" with his friend and fellow painter Jerome Thompson. Details of their visit were carried in the contemporary Home Journal. Both artists submitted paintings of Mount Mansfield, Vermont's tallest peak, to the National Academy of Design's annual show in 1859.

Thereafter, he served in the Union Army as a corporal in the 7th Regiment of the New York Militia upon the outbreak of the Civil War. A few of his canvases belonging to New York City's Seventh Regiment and the Union League Club of New York are testament to that troubled time.

During the summer of 1867, Gifford spent most of his time painting on the New Jersey coast, specifically at Sandy Hook and Long Branch, according to an auction Web site. "The Mouth of the Shrewsbury River," one noted canvas from the period, is a dramatic scene depicting a series of telegraph poles extending into an atmospheric distance underneath ominous storm clouds.

Another journey, this time with Jervis McEntee and his wife, took him across Europe in 1868. Leaving the McEntees behind, Gifford traveled to the Middle East, including Egypt in 1869. Then in the summer of 1870 Gifford ventured to the Rocky Mountains in the western United States, this time with Worthington Whittredge and John Frederick Kensett. At least part of the 1870 travels were as part of a Hayden Expedition, led by Ferdinand Vandeveer Hayden.

Returning to his studio in New York City, Gifford painted numerous major landscapes from scenes he recorded on his travels. Gifford's method of creating a work of art was similar to other Hudson River School artists. He would first sketch rough, small works in oil paint from his sketchbook pencil drawings. Those scenes he most favored he then developed into small, finished paintings, then into larger, finished paintings.

Gifford referred to the best of his landscapes as his "chief pictures". Many of his chief pictures are characterized by a hazy atmosphere with soft, suffuse sunlight. Gifford often painted a large body of water in the foreground or middle distance, in which the distant landscape would be gently reflected.

Gifford married in 1877 but in 1880 became ill and died of malarial fever and pneumonia at the age of 58. That same year he was honored with the Metropolitan Museum of Art's first monographic retrospective and a memorial catalogue of his known pictures. en.Wikipedia

External Links:
Sanford Robinson Gifford papers at the Smithsonian Archives of American Art

White Mountain Art & Artists

View Sanford Robinson Gifford Paintings: