A beautiful active sea holds a sailing brigantine before a blazing sunset in this work of luminosity by C.H. Gifford, dated 1898. A heavy palette and impasto texture help to present the depth the artist sought, echoing the early 1850s’ paintings of Fitz Henry Lane, for one. The low horizon is full of interesting play in color and shadow, laying what would otherwise be an overwhelming sunset.
Gifford strove to portray realistic subjects while capturing the natural light and reflective qualities on the water. He settled in New Bedford, and his Lafayette home included a studio tower that achieved 60 feet in height, so he could enjoy an unobstructed view of the harbor and local environs. His eye for subjects was influenced heavily by the works of New Bedford painters Albert Bierstadt and William Bradford, alongside of the works by Lane.
He held a certain amount of respect and admiration for the sailing fishermen of the East Coast, and often portrayed them up close and personal, battling the harsher elements, or sharing the joyous beauty of their ‘work place’ of the open ocean and coasts. Even late in the 19th Century, with the rising industrialization and dominance of steam propulsion, Gifford held to his preference for the working boats under sail and shoreline views of the eastern seaboard. This is a fine presentation of the highest quality of his work, in oil and quite a large canvas, quite rare for his hand.
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