A major Hudson River school painter with extensive European experience, Gifford traveled west several times. In 1870 he joined F. V. Hayden’s geological survey to Wyoming, leaving his two artist-companions, John F. Kensett and Worthington Whittredge, behind in Denver. Gifford produced only a few western landscape subjects (see his Valley of the Chugwater, which may be compared with a photograph by William H. Jackson of Gifford painting the scene. Gifford journeyed to the Northwest Coast in 1874, visiting Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, and Alaska. Again he seems to have been more interested in the experience rather than in painting; only a few works have survived from this trip.
Nicolai Cikovsky, Jr., Sanford Robinson Gifford (1823−1880) (Austin: University of Texas Art Museum, 1970); Metropolitan Museum of Art, Memorial Catalogue of the Paintings of Sanford Robinson Gifford, NA, with a Biography and Critical Essay by Prof. John F. Weir of the Yale School of Fine Arts (1881; New York: Olana Gallery, 1974); Weiss, Poetic Landscapes.
William Truettner, ed The West as America: Reinterpreting Images of the Frontier, 1820–1920 (Washington, D.C. and London: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1991)
Sanford Robinson Gifford grew up in the Hudson River valley and returned frequently throughout his life. He studied drawing in New York and made many sketching trips into the Catskill, Adirondack, and Shawangunk mountains. He traveled extensively in Europe, and one of his friends, the painter Worthington Whittredge, remembered that Gifford would often disappear without telling anybody where he was going, only to return two years later “as if nothing had ever happened.” Gifford painted in warm colors and often added many layers of varnish to emphasize the effects of light and atmosphere. His paintings showed familiar, friendly views of the American landscape, and he was once criticized for being unable to paint “anything but warmth.” (Avery and Kelly, eds., Hudson River School Visions: The Landscapes of Sanford R. Gifford, 2003).