Sanford Robinson Gifford | American Art Exhibition| 19th Century American Paintings

Painting from the Trenches: Wartime Works by Sanford R. Gifford Shine at Smithsonian Civil War Exhibition

Chelsea DeLay | November 9th, 2012 | Posted in News

The Civil War singlehandedly changed the course of American history, forever altering the lives of countless citizens. The Smithsonian will be opening an exhibition entitled The Civil War and American Art on November 16, 2012, that will go on to travel to New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Artand run May 21 through September 2, 2013.  The exhibition features 76 works and the artist roster will be jam-packed with some of the biggest names in American landscape art: audiences can view 58 paintings by American landscape artists such as Albert Bierstadt, John Frederick Kensett, Robert S. Duncanson, and Thomas Moran, while 18 vintage photographs that were snapped by Alexander Gardner, Timothy H. O’Sullivan, and George Barnard will also be on display.  Each and every one of these pieces was chosen for its emotional aesthetic that conveys the various sentiments of an embattled nation: anchoring The Civil War and American Art are Hudson River School painters Winslow Homer, Eastman Johnson, Frederic Edwin Church, and Sanford Robinson Gifford, whose canvases evoke the weariness of States on the brink of war, the brutal horror of armed combat, and the bloody aftermath and rebuilding of the United States.

Gifford drew on his own personal military experience for inspiration –he served in New York’s Seventh Regiment of the National Guard, during which he remained based in Manhattan.  Gifford’s artistic approach improved drastically as he painted throughout the war, and his luminist American landscape paintings garnered a great deal of professional attention.  The artist’s reputation was built around his ability to re-create the atmospheric scenes from his own travels throughout Europe, the Adirondack Mountains, the Catskills, and the Hudson River Valley; his delicate handling of sunlight and reflecting water earned him a spot in history as one of the most talented nineteenth-century American landscape artists.  In addition to landscapes, Gifford also focused on wartime scenes, a subject unavoidable as America waged battle against itself.  Part of the power seen in Gifford’s Civil War paintings was a result of the artist channeling his own grief: his younger brother committed suicide in 1861, and his other brother was killed in battle two years later. The Civil War was undoubtedly one of the most definitive periods in our nation’s history, and this exhibition will be an honest and poignant representation of the American identity that you won’t want to miss!

Sanford Gifford, “Camp of the Seventh Regiment, near Frederick, Maryland, July 1863,” 1864, New York State Military Museum.

Chelsea DeLay is a Researcher at Questroyal Fine Art. Chelsea earned her MA in art business at Sotheby’s Institute of Art in New York, and her BA in art history and classical studies. Her interest in American paintings first began while working at an auction house on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, and has multiplied exponentially since joining the Questroyal team.