A second-generation star of the Hudson River School

Bruce Weber

Bruce Weber Exhibitions

Twilight in the Catskills by Sanford Robinson Gifford, 1861. Yale University Art Gallery, gift of Joanne and John Payson in memory of Joan Whitney and Charles Shipman Payson, and in honor of Joan Whitney Payson; all photographs courtesy Thomas Cole National Historic Site.

Sanford R. Gifford in the Catskills is the name of an intimate, beautifully curated exhibition on view at the Thomas Cole National Historic Site in Catskill, New York. But the show could also have been subtitled Local Boy Makes Good. The exhibition purports to be the largest presentation of Gifford’s luminous work to be held so close to his childhood home: Hudson, the revitalized city almost directly across the Hudson River from the town of Catskill, where the pioneering landscape painter and dean of the Hudson River School, Thomas Cole, lived from 1825 until his death in 1848.

Kauterskill Falls by Gifford, 1846. SCAD Museum of Art, Savannah College of Art and Design, gift of Dr. Paul and Mrs. Mindy Bradley.

Kevin J. Avery, a major specialist in the art of the Hudson River School, curated this show of twenty depictions of the region that Gifford (1823–1880) made between 1846 and 1878. They range from his earliest extant painting—a view of the famous Kaaterskill Falls located in the Kaaterskill Clove gorge—to View Near Kauterskill [sic] Clove, painted in 1878 when Gifford was nearing the end of his life and had adopted the looser and more painterly style of the French Barbizon School. The exhibition includes loans from galleries, private collections, and museums, including Harvard’s Fogg Museum, the Portland Museum of Art, and the Albany Institute of History & Art. The showstopper is the Yale University Art Gallery’s Twilight in the Catskills—a canvas that resurfaced in the late 1990s after being out of public view since it was first shown in 1861 at the annual exhibition of the National Academy of Design.

A Sketch in Kauterskill Clove by Gifford, c. 1861. Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, gift of Sanford Gifford, M.D.; photograph © Imaging Department, President and Fellows of Harvard College.

Viewers energized by the exhibition can wander along the Hudson River School Art Trail, a self-guided walking-and-driving tour that leads to settings in the Hudson Valley that inspired works by the artists of the Hudson River School.

Sanford R. Gifford in the Catskills • Thomas Cole National Historic Site • Catskill, New York • to October 29 • thomascole.org