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Artist Biography

Aside from service in the Civil War; an 1879 trip to England, Scotland and Ireland; a handful of sketching trips; and two winters spent in New York, Gifford remained in the New Bedford area of Massachusetts his entire life. As historian William Gerdts has observed, Gifford’s “finest efforts…record his home port”.

Born in Fairhaven, Massachusetts, Gifford sketched extensively as a child and as a young man, drawing inspiration from the works of New Bedford painters  Albert Bierstadt and William Bradford. After Civil War service and an apparently unfulfilling shoemaking apprenticeship, Gifford began to sell his paintings and soon was able to focus exclusively on his artistic career. By 1868, Gifford enjoyed a sufficient level of success and opened his own studio above Mr. Ellis’s store in New Bedford, which over time became a favored meeting place for local artists, patrons and other interested townsfolk. Elizabeth Bierstadt, the famed artist’s sister-in-law, took a particular interest in Gifford’s work, and starting in 1867 served informally as his dealer for much of his career. With his precise draftsmanship and glowing Luminist style, Gifford is an artist that “plainly deserves wider recognition than he has yet received”.

Gifford’s works are represented in a number of prestigious public and private collections, including the Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH; the Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy, Andover, MA; Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT; the New Bedford Whaling Museum, New Bedford, MA; and the Peabody-Essex Museum, Salem, MA; among many others.

John Baur “The ‘Little Gems’ of Charles Henry Gifford,” The Magazine Antiques, November 1986
Art Across America vol. 1 (New York, NY: Abbeville Press, 1990), p. 54
An American Luminist: Charles Henry Gifford (New Bedford Whaling Museum, 1987)