Untitled Document
New Bedford Harbor - Charles Henry Gifford
Charles Henry Gifford
"New Bedford Harbor", 1868
Oil on canvas
26 x 36 inches
Signed and dated lower right
MME Fine Art Enlarge

This is a rare large-format work featuring Gifford’s favorite New England harbor. Marked by the glowing skies and precise painting that characterizes the Luminist style, New Bedford Harbor contains nautical details that give the work a sense of movement and authenticity. The meticulously detailed rigging; the buoys, burgees, and whitecaps; even the massive anchor on the black-hulled ship in the foreground all attest to Gifford’s deep knowledge of maritime practices and his talent for depicting them on canvas. The town of New Bedford is on the left and neighboring Fairhaven on the right, just across the Acushnet River. Silhouetted on the left horizon is the 1849 Palmer Island Lighthouse, a classic white, conically-shaped stone structure with black lantern. So closely identified is the lighthouse with New Bedford that it appears on the city’s seal, and inspired their motto, Lucem Diffundo, meaning "I Spread the Light.” Also visible are Fort Phoenix, the ruins of a Revolutionary War fortification, and the spire of the First Congregational Church, both in Fairhaven. The church’s monumental wooden steeple, measuring two hundred feet, collapsed in a hurricane a year after New Bedford Harbor was painted. The dramatic marine scene—with two ships cutting through the crashing waves on opposite tacks—is made real with Gifford’s careful inclusion of site-specific details.

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