Charles Henry Gifford (1839 - 1904)
Twin Lights, Thacher Island, Cape Ann, n.d.
Oil on canvas
4 3/4 x 15 1/4 inches
Signed at lower left: C. H. Gifford
Gifford style frame
The self-taught luminist painter Charles Henry Gifford was born in the coastal town of Fairhaven, Massachusetts in 1839. Gifford served in the Civil War from 1862 to 1864, and was a prisoner-of-war in a Confederate prison. While the young man learned the trades of ship-building and shoemaking before the war, Gifford became determined to become a painter after seeing an exhibition of dramatic paintings by Albert Bierstadt in the nearby town of New Bedford, Massachusetts. According to the artist himself, "What set me to painting was...seeing an exhibition of Bierstadt's paintings...I was so enthused that I came home, got some cloth and paint and went right to work".
Having returned from the Civil War, Gifford established a studio in New Bedford, where he painted carefully observed, small scale works of nearby coastlines, shores and mountains. By the early 1870s, Gifford began to exhibit nationally, and is listed as having shown paintings at the Palette Club in New York City, as well as at the Buffalo Fine Arts Academy and the Chicago Industrial Exposition. In 1870, he travelled out of the country for the first time, and visited Ireland, Scotland and London.
Gifford preferred to paint on an intimate scale, and often used a strongly horizontal composition, as in the present painting of the Twin Lights. The mood is one of calm and peace, with typically naturalistic attention to detail.