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Lot 4: Sanford Robinson Gifford (1823-1880)
IMPORTANT AMERICAN PAINTINGS, DRAWINGS AND SCULPTURE
May 22, 2003
New York, NY, USA
Description: The Mouth of the Shrewsbury River signed 'S.R. Gifford' (lower left), dated 'July 20 1867' (lower right)-- signed, dated and inscribed with title (on the reverse) oil on canvas 111/4 x 19 in. (28.6 x 48.3 cm.) PROVENANCE S.B. Dod, Hoboken, New Jersey, as of 1867 (probably). LITERATURE New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gifford Memorial Catalogue, 1881, no. 454 (probably) NOTES According to Dr. Ila Weiss, the present work "is the only known study for an important lost exhibition piece, Sunset Over the Mouth of the Shrewsbury River, Sandy Hook, N.J. That painting was exhibited at the National Academy of Design in 1868, the Brooklyn Art Association in 1869, and the Philadelphia Centennial in 1876; and it was included on the artist's 'List of Chief Pictures'." After traveling abroad for more than two years, Gifford returned home and settled in New York at the new Studio Building on Tenth Street. Gifford was extremely productive in the following years, completing several Civil War themed works, and impressive canvases along the New England Coast and the Adirondacks. During the summer of 1867 Gifford spent most of his time painting on the New Jersey coast, specifically at Sandy Hook and Long Branch. The Mouth of the Shrewsbury River is a dramatic scene depicting a series of telegraph poles extending into an atmospheric distance underneath ominous storm clouds. Gifford has exquisitely depicted the landscape with dense strokes of paint to render a turbulent sky full of motion. Juxtaposed against this formidable sky Gifford has delicately painted a series of sailboats stretched along the horizon into a seemingly unlimited expanse of sea. A contemporary critic commented on the exhibition piece: "To the exhibition of the Academy in 1868 Mr. Gifford sent a view of the sterile sand-beach at Sandy Hook, in which his power as an artist, in combining the realistic with the imaginative elements of composition, was most brilliantly displayed. The scene in Nature is a broad and sandy beach, with a line of telegraph-poles leading off into perspective but in connection with these uninteresting features Mr. Gifford introduced the rolling and billowing storm clouds, dark and mysterious at the horizon line, and...the foreground aglow with the tenderly-toned mellow light of the sun, the strong rays of which were not yet pent in by the gathering gloom. The effect is grand." In July 1867 an article in Harper's Weekly offered the following from a series on American artists: "Mr. Gifford's pictures are of the kind which do not force themselves upon you, but rather win you by sympathy and love. Thus he rarely indulges in startling effects of color, nor does he journey far away to seek for scenes which are meant to excite and astonish you, but, with loving eye and gentle hand, he finds and reproduces upon the canvas those views familiar to us all--the sea-shore, with boundless stretch of ocean--and all this rendered with fine conception, with careful, laborious touch, with conscientious skill...He has a refined sense of the beautiful, and a high expression of order, which exhibits itself in all he does." A letter from Dr. Ila Weiss dated March 19, 2003 accompanies this lot.