Charles Henry Gifford
(1839-1904)

Gifford was born in Fairhaven, Massachusetts in 1839. At a young age he demonstrated a natural artistic talent, and after seeing one of Albert Bierstadt’s paintings at an exhibition in New Bedford, Gifford resolved to become an artist. However, his family encouraged him to choose a more practical profession, so he became a shoemaker. Gifford practiced his trade until 1862, when he began his first term of service in the Civil War. In that year he enlisted in the Massachusetts Volunteer, Company I, and served nine months in North Carolina. In December 1863 he was taken captive by the Confederate army and incarcerated in the Libby prison for one month, then sent to a parole camp in Annapolis, Maryland for five months. When he returned home his regiment had been discharged. However, in the summer of 1864, Gifford re-enlisted as a member of the 23rd unattached company of the Massachusetts Infantry for 100 days.

When he was finally discharged from military service Gifford became an artist and remained as such for the rest of his career. He enjoyed a fair amount of success in his lifetime. Gifford opened a studio in New Bedford, and for two winters had a studio in New York City. In 1879 he spent two months abroad, traveling to England, Scotland, and Ireland. Gifford was never formally trained as a painter, but took his lesson instead from nature itself. The treatment of his subjects is marked by close attention to detail and truth to nature--- central tenets of the Hudson River School. However, Gifford did not slavishly copy the style of his artistic forebears. Instead, he combined the related philosophies of the Hudson River School and the Luminists to create works of art that were distinctly his own.