Sanford Robinson Gifford was a leading figure among the second generation of the Hudson River school. The year of his birth his family moved to Hudson, on the east bank of the Hudson River opposite the Catskill Mountains, where his father, owner of a successful iron foundry, raised his children in comfortable surroundings. Gifford attended Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, from 1842 to 1844 but in 1845 went to New York to study drawing with John Rubens Smith (1775-1849). In 1846 he decided to dedicate himself to landscape painting, and he advanced rapidly in this specialty. His paintings were exhibited the following year at both the American Art-Union and the National Academy of Design, the latter of which elected him an associate member in 1850 and an academician in 1854. In 1857 he made his first trip to Europe, remaining two years. He served in the Union Army during the Civil War. In 1868 he made a shorter visit to Europe and the Near East. In 1870 he visited Colorado and Wyoming and in 1874 the West Coast. Throughout his career Gifford continued to paint both American and European scenes, based upon the sketches he had made while traveling. He was secretly married in 1877. In the early summer of 1880 his health began to fail, and he died of malarial fever.
Archiv. Am. Art, Sanford R. Gifford Papers § New York, Century Association, Gifford Memorial Meeting of The Century, 1880, with addresses by John F. Weir, Worthington Whittredge, and Jervis McEntee § New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, A Memorial Catalogue of the Paintings of Sanford Robinson Gifford, N.A., 1881, with essay by John F. Weir, chronological list of known works § Austin, University of Texas, University Art Museum, and others, Sanford Robinson Gifford, 1823-1880, exh. cat., 1970-71, with introduction by Nicolai Cikovsky, Jr. § Ila Weiss, Poetic Landscape: The Art and Experience of Sanford R. Gifford, American Arts series (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1988), with bibliography, appendixes of proportions and dimensions of canvases, annotated "List of Some of My Pictures" by the artist, 1874, updated 1880.