Alger did not just own the painting, he helped finance Gifford's trip to Europe, from 1855 through 1857, during which Gifford had painted it. In his biographical sketch of Gifford in An Artist's Legacy and a Dealer's Admiration: Paintings by Sanford Robinson Gifford, Donald J. Christensen writes:
During these critical years of European travel, Gifford saw the great art of Great Britain and the Continent, current and past, including that of J. M. W. Turner, who had died in 1851. . . . This trip had been financed in part by a business partner of Gifford's father, Charles C. Alger, who had an important collection of American and European art in his home in Hudson. Alger commissioned the painting that cemented Gifford's mature style and fame, Lake Nemi. Gifford spent the winter of 1856-57 in Rome working on this painting, which would become his breakthrough achievement. Without the financial support from Alger at that critical moment in Gifford's life, the artist we admire today may not have blossomed.Earlier today, by amazing coincidence, in my ongoing page-by-page perusal of issues of the Hudson Daily Star from 1851, I discovered this item, which appeared on June 4.
The article is evidence that Alger was not the first Hudsonian to commission paintings by Gifford. Nathan C. Folger, who commissioned the two paintings of Mt. Merino and the Catskills, was born in Hudson in 1810. In 1830, Folger left Hudson to seek his fortune in New Orleans, where he became involved in the retail clothing business. His first clothing store in New Orleans failed, but after retreating to New York City for a few years, Fogler was, in 1851, the owner of an obviously successful clothing store in New Orleans.
Sanford Gifford had not yet achieved fame in 1851, but he was not unknown either. He exhibited his first painting at the National Academy of Design in 1847, and in 1851, he was admitted to the National Academy as an associate. A painting by Gifford called Mt. Merino on the Hudson was part of the National Academy exhibition in the spring of 1851. Is it possible that this was one of the two works Gifford "painted to order" for N. C. Folger?
Gossips cannot answer that question, but more information about N. C. Folger, his business in New Orleans, and his continuing ties to Hudson will be provided in future posts.
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