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Charles Henry Gifford

Charles Henry Gifford: Indians at Gay Head<br>Sold at Eldred's in 2010 for a world record $109,750

Indians at Gay Head
Sold at Eldred's in 2010 for a world record $109,750

American

1839 - 1904

Charles Henry Gifford was born in the Massachusetts coastal village of Fairhaven in 1839. Although fascinated
by art at an early age, his eventual career was delayed by his father’s desire for him to learn a trade, as well as to
serve in the Civil War. After the end of his enlistment, which included a month as a prisoner of war in Virginia’s
infamous Libby Prison, Gifford returned to Fairhaven and dedicated his life to the pursuit of his art.

At the time of his return, the neighboring city of New Bedford was not only a busy whaling port, but also a
resplendent artistic community where some of the best artists of the day maintained studios or consistently
showed their works. Included in the group were leading marine artists Alfred Van Beest and William Bradford,
but it was the famed luminist landscape painter Alfred Bierstadt who made the strongest early impression on
young Gifford, who, in his own words, admitted that “what set me to painting was...seeing an exhibition of
Bierstadt’s paintings...I was so enthused that I came home, got some cloth and paint and went right to work”.
By the late 1860s Gifford had become an established and successful New Bedford marine artist, specializing in
what he would later call his “little gems”, small detailed maritime views of coastal Massachusetts.

By the 1870s Gifford’s career was firmly established. Despite the fact that he had no formal artistic training, he was producing highly accomplished landscape and maritime works. The later half of the decade found Gifford executing a
series of larger luminous works that rivaled the best of William Bradford, Fitz H. Lane, and his childhood icon,
Alfred Bierstadt.

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