Sanford Robinson Gifford

born Greenfield, NY 1823-died New York City 1880
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Also known as
  • Sanford R. Gifford
  • S. R. Gifford
  • Sanford Gifford
Greenfield, New York, United States
New York, New York, United States

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)

Luce Artist Biography

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).


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The Civil War and American Art
November 16, 2012April 28, 2013
The Civil War and American Art examines how America’s artists represented the impact of the Civil War and its aftermath.

Related Books

The Civil War and American Art
The Civil War and American Art looks at the range of artwork created in the years between 1852 and 1877. Author Eleanor Jones Harvey surveys paintings made by some of America’s finest artists, including Frederic Edwin Church, Sanford Gifford, Winslow Homer, and Eastman Johnson, and photographs taken by George Barnard, Alexander Gardner, and Timothy O’Sullivan.
Variations on America: Masterworks from American Art Forum Collections
The American Art Forum, a small group of collectors from across the United States, was begun twenty years ago by Charles C. Eldredge while he was director of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Now, as part of the Forum’s twentieth anniversary celebrations, the Smithsonian American Art Museum is proud to offer Variations on America, a volume of seventy-two treasured artworks collected by members of the Forum. Chief curator Eleanor Jones Harvey, deputy chief curator George Gurney, senior curators Virginia M. Mecklenburg and Joann Moser, former Luce Foundation Center curator George Speer, and curatorial assistant Elaine Yau present significant and lively contributions about these works.