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    Description

    Sanford Robinson Gifford (American, 1823-1880)
    The Trapps, Shawangunk Mountains, 1850
    Oil on paper laid on canvas
    7-1/2 x 14-3/4 inches (19.1 x 37.5 cm) (paper)
    Dated and inscribed lower left: Shawangunk Mts Sept 7th 1850


    According to Dr. Ila Weiss, in a letter dated March 30, 2014, which accompanies this lot:

    "This is one of three surviving oil sketches of the Shawangunks by Sanford R. Gifford containing similar inscriptions in the artist's hand, dated August and early September 1850. The others are a view north from a height across cultivated fields toward the Catskills, a middle-distance study, 7 3/8 by 10 7/8 inches, inscribed in pencil 'Shawangunk Mts Sept 4th 1850'; and a foreground study of rocks, inscribed in paint on a rock, lower left, 'SRG Aug 1850 Shawangunk Mts.' (Color plate 1 in Ila Weiss, Poetic Landscape: The Art and Experience of Sanford R. Gifford, U. of Delaware Press, 1987, opp. p. 128.) A related foreground oil study of tree roots was also inscribed by cutting into wet paint, 'Catskill Mts July 9 1850.' All but the Shawangunks rocks are known to have been originally painted on paper. While Gifford's usual practice was to sketch from nature in pencil and paint indoors, he sometimes did oil sketches en plein air. The four known paintings from the summer of 1850, all closely observed, instinctively balanced but not traditionally composed studies of elements of the landscape intended for future reference, were most likely done outdoors.

    "In the [present] painting, the view of the two escarpments known as The Trapps (popular for rock climbing) was taken from the height of what is now known as Sky Top, the Shawangunk outcropping closest to the Hudson Valley and the town of New Paltz, NY. In the view southwest from there the nearer profile of The Trapps just touches the more distant sloping contour. Later Gifford would return to the same landscape feature for effects of late afternoon light (1864) and sunset (mid 1870s) warmly coloring and illuminating the intervening air, but from the slightly lower and closer vantage point of Eagle Cliff, with the two profiles more closely overlapped. However, the painting of 1850 scrutinizes the distant subject in the morning when its exposed conglomerate and sandstone walls brightly reflected the light. A generalized foreground with curving contour is sketched in to offset the distant subject. The artist is focused on capturing the spatial recession in palpable air of the layered features: the warm white and tans of the smooth, reflectant rock faces and warmer and cooler greens and textures of discernible vegetation of the closer escarpment; the smoother, less articulated textures and cooler blue-gray tints of the more distant elevation; and an area of transition between the two. More aerial and quite abstract is the receding plain to the south, blending and alternating blues and grays of land and haze and water.

    "Two versions of 'The Trapps, Shawangunk Mountains' were catalogued for the Gifford Estate Sale of 1881, both undated and both close in size to this painting, approximately 8 by 14 1/2 inches (Sanford R. Gifford Collection, 2 vols., Thomas E. Kirby & Co., New York, II:69 and II:82). There seem to be other similar studies, however, as dates were given when evident, and all paintings in that sale bear the estate sale stamp on the verso, whereas none was recorded to have been observed on the unrelined canvas backing of this painting. The related 'Study of Rocks in the Shawangunk Mountains, New York,' dated 1850, also appears in the estate sale catalogue (I:1) as well as in the Gifford Memorial Catalogue (Metropolitan Museum 1881, #29). The earliest exhibition piece with a Shawangunk subject in the Memorial Catalogue is #55, incorrectly titled 'Sunset in the Catskills,' dated 1854, also exhibited at the National Academy of Design in 1854 as #383, 'Shawangunk Mountains.' It is a known large oval, 41 by 36 inches, one of a pair ("Morning in the Adirondacks' and "Sunset in the Shawangunks,' Warner Collection, Gulf States Paper Corporation, Tuscaloosa; illustrated in color in Hudson River School Visions: The Landscapes of Sanford R. Gifford, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2003, p. 10). In it the relationships of the escarpments is that of the 1850 view, which may have been its source; but the vast composed vista adds the downward view of Shawangunk (now Mohonk) Lake, not visible in the observational study, bold foreground rocks, autumn color, and the effect of late afternoon light in haze, obscuring the rock cliffs in dimly glowing air. Here the direction has been set for Gifford's developed aerial-luminist style, informed by the kind of intense and devoted examination of nature represented by the 1850 oil studies."

    We wish to thank Dr. Ila Weiss for her expertise and gracious assistance in cataloguing this painting.


    Condition Report*: Relined canvas; there appears to be light overall surface grime with a few tiny possible accretions; slight toning along upper and left edges of sheet; under UV exam, there appears to be tiny dots and thin lines of inpainting throughout, most notably in sky; an approx .5 x 2 inch passage of inpainting at center left edge as well as a thin approx. 3 inch line of inpainting starting at right bottom edge and extending to top of cliff.
    *Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Some condition issues may not be noted in the condition report but are apparent in the provided photos which are considered part of the condition report. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    November, 2015
    16th Monday
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