Charles Henry Gifford (1839-1904)

Charles Henry Gifford (1839-1904)

Born in Fairhaven, Massachusetts, Charles Henry Gifford was the son of a ship’s carpenter.  As a young man he showed no particular interest in becoming an artist, rather he was apprenticed to a boatbuilder and later worked as a shoemaker.  It was not until 1864 and after serving in the Civil War that Gifford gave up shoemaking to become an artist.  Two years later Gifford married Cordelia Palmer and the couple settled in Fairhaven.  By 1868 he established a studio above a shop in New Bedford.  Although Gifford received no formal training, he may have been familiar with local marine artists, Albert Bierstadt, Robert S. Gifford and William Bradford. 

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Gifford’s style is in keeping with the principles established by the Hudson River School tradition.  He traveled throughout New England and New York sketching the picturesque views of the Elizabeth Islands, Lake Winnipesaukee and Niagara Falls.  By 1874 he was regularly selling his paintings, which typically were not larger than 9 x 14 inches.  His larger works were usually commissioned pieces.  After 1899 he concentrated mainly on painting watercolors. 

Gifford exhibited locally in New Bedford and in Boston at Williams and Everett Gallery and the Massachusetts Mechanics Association in 1874. 

References: See Who Was Who In American Art (1999).; John I.H. Bauer, “The ‘Little Gems’ of Charles Henry Gifford,” Antiques (November 1986): 1024-1035.     

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