Historical Landscapes             Ashokan After Gifford

          Griffin After Gifford
                                                                Ashokan After Gifford  2004   Oil on Board, 11 X 19"

This view from the top of Mt. Tremper (2,750 feet) is reminiscent of those generally chosen by Gifford. 
" I’m sure he would have painted this scene had it existed during his lifetime.  As I worked I felt myself to be an observer of the artistic process—as if I were actually watching the landscape emerge on Gifford’s canvas—over his shoulder, as it were."
Ashokan After Gifford is the same size as Gifford’s Artist Sketching at Mount Desert, Maine.  The sun is preparing to set.  The forest, primarily maples with a mix of oak and pines, are in full autumn color.

Gifford's PaintingSanford Gifford  (1823—1880) was raised in Hudson, NY, and is considered to be one of the foremost among the second generation of Hudson River artists.  He was also considered a Luminist, capturing the hazy softness so typical of the Hudson Valley’s light.  
He had one studio on 10th street in Manhattan along with other artists, and another studio at his parents’ house in Hudson, NY.  He painted the Hudson valley as well as throughout New England, the Midwest and Europe.

                                                   Sanford GiffordThe Artist Sketching at Mount Desert, Maine, 1865,  11 X 19”  o/c.  

Artist Sketching has the wide panoramic vista for which Gifford was famous.  Though he painted scenes that were frequently depicted by his contemporaries, this work appears to have been a unique view, one not attempted by other artists of the period.
The painting almost completely eliminates the middle ground.  The viewer stands on solid rock while observing the artist, who, lost in his work of capturing a far distant world, is precariously close to the precipice.  The playfulness here is that the artist is also the viewer, a possible reference to Thomas Cole’s seminal The Oxbow: View From Mt. Holyoke (1836), where the artist appears as a feature in the landscape he is painting.

Ashokan Reservoir

The Ashokan reservoir (covering 13 square miles) was officially completed in 1916, 36 years after Gifford’s death. While man-made, the reservoir follows the footprint of a vast lake originally created by melting glaciers.  The Ashokan Reservoir is an unintended restoration of a prehistoric tableau.

Further Reading:
Hudson River School Visions- The Landscapes of Sanford R. Gifford; Yale University Press; New Haven; 2004
All That is Glorious Around Us- Paintings from the Hudson River School; Driscoll, John; Cornell University Press, Ithaca (NY), 1997

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