Sunday, April 1, 2007

Paintings I Like, pt. 4

Sanford Gifford, Kauterskill Clove, 1862. Oil on canvas, 48" x 40."

You really have to pick and choose when it comes to the Hudson River painters - some lapse into a maudlin postcard type of thing, but the best of them are rivaled only by the Impressionists in terms of the depiction of light. Sanford Gifford is my favorite of the group.

There are two things about this painting that are really amazing to me:

First is the depiction of that humid, August haze that hangs in the air. In the valley, Gifford contrasts blue greys and pale blue violets against the yellow-green trees lit by the sun. The values are quite close, and the result is a kind of Venetian haze (if you've been reading my posts and looking at my work, you know this misty close-value technique is a big thing with me).

And second, that sun - whenever I see this painting, I reflexively squint. That small dab of white, surrounded by the palest ring of orange, and then the complimentary blue, both lightened so as to be barely differentiated from the white, gives the picture a dazzlingly bright, back-lit effect. This is a technique you can also see in Turner, especially the one that hangs in the dining room at the Frick Collection here in New York.

There was a terrific little Gifford show at the Met at the end of 2003, click here to see some of the pictures.

Incidentally, I was introduced to this painting by one of my professors, a painter who's first name is also Sanford. What are the odds?