Gifford, Sanford Robinson
American, 1823 - 1880
Born and raised in the center of the Hudson River Valley, Sanford Gifford came from a family that supported and encouraged his artistic leanings, and whose prosperity meant he could pursue painting without financial worries. Gifford began training in New York City to be a portrait painter, but--inspired by the work of the American landscapist Thomas Cole--turned to landscape painting. Gifford spent the summer of 1846 touring and sketching in the Catskill and Berkshire mountains. By 1847, he had begun to show his work at the American Art-Union and the National Academy of Design in New York, where he was elected an associate in 1850 and an academician in 1854.
In 1855, Gifford traveled to Europe, where he spent two-and-a-half years visiting the great repositories of art and sketching scenery in England, Scotland, France, the Low Countries, Germany, Switzerland, and Italy. In England, he admired the color and light in the paintings of J.M.W. Turner, and discussed his work with the critic John Ruskin. Gifford was also impressed by the work of the French landscape painters of the Barbizon school, but wrote in his journal of the dangers of surrendering to a particular method or school of painting, lest they "usurp the place of Nature."