Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Upcoming Lecture on Sanford R. Gifford

On Sunday, September 18, Historic Hudson presents a lecture on the work of Hudson River School painter Sanford Robinson Gifford by Alexander Nemerov, the Carl and Marilynn Thoma Provostial Professor in the Arts and Humanities at Stanford University. The lecture takes place at 2:00 p.m. at Stair Galleries, 549 Warren Street in Hudson. 

Sanford Gifford is one of the Hudson River School painters with strong ties to the City of Hudson. His family moved here from Saratoga County in 1823, when Sanford was only a few months old. He grew up here and maintained his connection to Hudson throughout his life. He is buried in the Hudson City Cemetery.

When the family came to Hudson in 1823, Sanford’s father, Elihu Gifford, purchased an interest in Hudson’s only iron foundry. In 1856, he renamed the foundry E. Gifford & Sons. It was a business that brought wealth to the family and sustained it for several generations.

Sanford Gifford was the fourth of eleven children born to Elihu and Eliza Starbuck Gifford and one of the sons who did not enter the family foundry business. Instead, like his eldest brother Charles, Sanford was captivated by art. Growing up, he may have studied with Hudson artist Henry Ary. In 1842, Sanford entered Brown University, but he dropped out after his sophomore year and moved to New York City to study art.

Sanford Gifford, A Gorge in the Mountains (Kauterskill Clove), 1862. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Bequest of Maria DeWitt Jessup, from the collection of her husband, Morris K. Jessup, 1914.

Sanford Gifford’s landscape paintings are perhaps the most beautiful of all Hudson River School landscapes. Most notably, he was famed for his portrayal of distance. Far horizons—hazy, luminous, otherworldly—were his special fascination. In his lecture, entitled “Faith, Pain, and the Faraway in Sanford Gifford’s Landscape Paintings,” Alexander Nemerov will explore Gifford’s faith in the faraway in light of his close relationship with his troubled older brother, Charles. Charles Gifford committed suicide in 1861, at the outbreak of the Civil War.

Nemerov is the author of Soulmaker: The Times of Lewis Hine (2016), Summoning Pearl Harbor (2017), and most recently Fierce Poise: Helen Frankenthaler and 1950s New York, which was published by Penguin in 2021 and was short-listed for the 2021 National Book Critics Circle Award in Biography. He is currently completing his next book, The Forest: A Fable of America in the 1830s, to be published by Princeton University Press. The book is based on the Andrew W. Mellon Lectures Nemerov presented at the National Gallery in 2017.

Photo: Bob Richman

Admission to the lecture is $15 for members of Historic Hudson, $20 for nonmembers. Tickets can be purchased online at or at the door. The lecture will also be available on Zoom.

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