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    SANFORD ROBINSON GIFFORD (American, 1823-1880)
    Lake George from Buck Mountain
    Oil on canvas
    4-1/2 x 8-1/2 inches (11.4 x 21.6 cm)
    The original canvas verso bears the Gifford estate stamp.

    Private collection, Texas.

    We wish to thank Dr. Ila Weiss for her expertise and gracious assistance in cataloguing this painting. According to Dr. Weiss, in a letter dated July 30, 2013, which accompanies this lot:

    This painting bore the Gifford estate sale stamp, verso, before relining, making its identity certain. It is #326 in the Gifford Memorial Catalogue (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1881); and #88 in the estate sale catalogue, The Sanford R. Gifford Collection, Part II (New York: Thomas E. Kirby & Co., 1881). . . . The painting was sold in the estate sale of April 29, 1881.

    Buck Mountain is a rocky summit on the east side of Lake George with open views to the north and west. A lost larger version of this view was also catalogued, A View from Buck Mountain, Lake George, 8 by 18 inches, #325 in the Memorial Catalogue and #45 in The Sanford R. Gifford Collection, Part II.

    In the company of his artist-friends Richard W. Hubbard and Jervis McEntee, Gifford went on a sketching expedition to upstate New York in September 1863, first to Lake Champlain, then to nearby Lake George and on to Lake Placid in the Adirondacks. Gifford had served as a reserve with the Seventh Regiment, New York Militia, in the Civil War that summer for the third and last time, including dangerous active duty during the New York Draft Riots in July. He must have found the subsequent immersion in nature to be especially restorative and delightful.

    The trip was documented by Gifford in two sketchbooks, one of them containing Lake George drawings that include the view from Buck Mountain. [Sketchbook 9, New York, 1860-1863, signed "S R Gifford 15 10th St. New York," at the Fogg Museum, Harvard University, ex. coll. Dr. Sanford Gifford.] These drawings are undated but would have been done between September 8, when he dated a view at Lake Champlain and September 17 when they left Bolton on Lake George for the Adirondacks. A panoramic contour drawing of the painting's view extends over two facing pages. Two smaller sketches on a separate page compose the view for a potential painting, and a tiny drawing embedded in one of the compositions tries it with a left foreground. On that page, too, is a tonal drawing of a man seen from behind, standing next to a large rock at the brink of the foreground, with a distance of gray-toned hills and the outline of a far-distant mountain range. He jauntily holds a walking stick to his side to perfectly frame a conifer -- an example of the artist's sense of humor. . . . For this character the painting substitutes two figures in the far foreground (as if seen from above), conjured with just a few dabs of paint, undoubtedly representing Hubbard and McEntee. The rock is retained at the edge of the painting's far-foreground, toward the left, as is the string of darker hills in the distance and the far-distant aerial range. Pentimento pencil lines in the painting reveal that a far-foreground hill was tried towards the central area of the lake in the underlying drawing but moved toward the left to balance the composition and conform to the original sketches.

    Typical of Gifford's procedure, the small oil sketch transforms the sketchbook's line drawings as a vast aerial-luminous space, conveying the artist's exhilarating experience of the early autumn vista. With sketchy but masterful brushstrokes he establishes the warm tonality of pink-lit cliffs and open slopes of hillside and the warm brown-greens of the foreground's deciduous woods, punctuated with darker evergreens. A scattering of deep salmons and golden highlights among the trees evoke the seasonal coloring. In subtle, cooler opposition are the gray-blues of the hazy distance and upper sky, warming toward tan-pink at the horizon, the warmer and cooler tones mixed in the watery reflection. A middle-distant hilly ridge is sculpted by the warm light and smoothed by intervening air. Still more distant mountains are further flattened in haze, their forms merely suggested where touched by the pinkish light, while the cooler gray far-distance is half-lost in the atmosphere. The lost larger version, in keeping with Gifford's known practice, most likely would have further separated the tangible, substantive foreground from the aerial view through tonal adjustments, and perhaps intensified the autumn color, removing the effect somewhat from that of the original experience captured here.

    Gifford was exploring aerial effects, using haze to measure vast expanses, in other works of the early 1860s. Notably similar in composition and effect to the view from Buck Mountain is his View from Eagle Pond, NJ of 1862 at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth. A similar view from a height to the left (which he tentatively tried for the Lake George composition), is a View of the Berkshire Hills, near Pittsfield, MA of 1863 at the M. H. de Young Memorial Museum, San Francisco. -- Ila Weiss, July 30, 2013, New York

    Condition Report*: A glue-lined canvas that has been cleaned and re-varnished; under UV examination, in-painting to address a 2.5" high x 1" wide x 1" high inverted U-shaped tear in central mountain range; additional tiny dots of in-painting in left sky and water and in upper right sky; one .5" diagonal line of in-painting in left mountain range. Framed Dimensions 15.25 X 19 Inches
    *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
    December, 2013
    5th Thursday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 12
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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