Sanford Robinson Gifford was an American painter and member of the famed Hudson River School. His landscape work is absolutely breathtaking, and today’s piece, ‘Hunter Mountain, Twilight,’ is a great representation of his work. Many of his paintings have long, horizontal compositions and often capture natural light illuminating the scene from a distance, two attributes which always aid me in singling out his work from that of his contemporaries. Even his paintings of grand, spacious landscapes still possess an intimate observation of the topography while accompanied by his soft, luminous lighting. Really wonderful work.
While ‘Hunter Mountain’ depicts a strikingly beautiful view with subject, it occurs to me that this sight would not be possible without human intervention having cleared out the trees in the foreground. Perhaps this was not intended by the artist, but those tree stumps stand out as if they were the exposed nerves of the forest, remnants from man’s development of the land. If I may state the obvious, it really feels as if something had been unnaturally removed from the scene. This piece is both a representation of man’s progress and the emptiness left behind in his path.
That aside, I really enjoy the little details throughout this painting. At the center you may observe a gathering of cows drinking from tiny stream, and toward the right you’ll also see house nestled below the trees as well charming, ramshackle fence.
‘Hunter Mountain’ is owned by the Terra Foundation for American Art, and was featured in the Terra Museum before its closure in 2004. Circa 2003 I worked at the Chicago Place Mall on Michigan Avenue, only a block away from the Terra, and during my lunch breaks I would occasionally stop in to see the collection. This is when I first saw ‘Hunter Mountain,’ and to this day it remains one of my favorite Giffords. After the Terra closed many of the museum’s paintings, including ‘Hunter Mountain,’ were placed on long-term loan to the Art Institute of Chicago, and I became used to visiting this work there as well. It’s amusing that I’ve now followed this painting around two different homes. I still miss the intimacy of the Terra.
Details behind the cut.