Hudson River School paintings | Sanford Robinson Gifford

Hidden Stories

Nina Sangimino | January 23rd, 2014 | Posted in Essays

One of the most exciting aspects of working at Questroyal Fine Art is seeing what new paintings will arrive each day. With a constantly changing inventory of more than 400 works, it is a near guarantee that each day will have an air of Christmas morning with a package to unwrap and a surprise inside. But sometimes, the greatest discoveries are not the paintings themselves, but the stories of where they came from.

When Sanford Robinson Gifford’s Venice was brought in for the first time, it was presented a little differently from the typical cardboard box and bubble wrap. A fellow dealer came into the gallery with an oversized, leather-bound scrapbook that looked like it had been well-loved for generations. I was lucky enough to be in Lou’s office when he opened it up to show off the treasures inside. The book was filled with small drawings, prints, and watercolors by some of the greatest American artists, Albert Bierstadt among them; there were even a few oils as well. Lou stopped on a page with a bright yellow canvas pasted to it: a Venice scene by Gifford.

Amazed by the brilliant works in this unassuming book, I asked who had assembled this hall of fame collection. The dealer explained that the book had belonged to the Hudson River School painter and West Point professor Robert Walter Weir. It had then been passed down through his family, presumably to his sons John Ferguson Weir and Julian Alden Weir, until this dealer was able to acquire it from the great-great-granddaughter of the artist. I was already falling under the spell of this glimmering rendition of La Serenissima, but learning about the prestige of its provenance sealed the deal.

While many paintings at Questroyal are so exquisitely painted you can admire them without knowing anything about them, including the artist, I still like to get to know a painting, and have the luxury of doing so as a researcher for the gallery. It is tales like this that excite me and heighten my love for this period of art, where the paintings themselves have a history and a story waiting to be discovered.

Sanford Robinson Gifford, Venice, 1879, oil on canvas, Questroyal Fine Art

Sanford Robinson Gifford (1823–1880)
Venice, 1879
Oil on canvas
3 x 6¼ inches
Initialed lower right: SRG; signed and dated on verso: SRGifford / May 5th 1879
Questroyal Fine Art, LLC, New York, New York

Nina Sangimino is the Senior Researcher at Questroyal Fine Art. Nina discovered her love of art in high school drawing and painting classes. She went on to study art history at the University at Albany and earned an MS in the same field from Pratt Institute. Prior to joining Questroyal, Nina was a curatorial apprentice at the Vanderbilt Museum in Centerport, New York.