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    Description

    Sanford Robinson Gifford (American, 1823-1880)
    A Souvenir of the Catskills, Kaaterskill Clove, 1867
    Oil on board
    7-7/8 x 9-5/8 inches (20.0 x 24.4 cm)
    Signed and dated lower left: S R G / 67
    Titled and inscribed on the reverse: For Miss Buck / A Souvenir of the Catskills

    PROVENANCE:
    Salander O'Reilly Gallery, New York;
    Questroyal Fine Art, LLC, New York;
    Private collection, East Coast, acquired from the above.

    We wish to thank noted Gifford scholar Dr. Ila Weiss for providing the following essay. Her letter dated September 29, 2021, accompanies the lot:

    Thank you for requesting my opinion of Sanford R. Gifford's painted recollection of Kaaterskill Clove in the Catskills, inscribed on the verso, "For Miss Buck / A Souvenir of the Catskills" (oil on paper board, 7 7/8 x 9 5/8 in., initialed and dated '67, lower left), and for providing digital imagery. As the inscription makes clear, this is an imagined view of one of Gifford's favorite subjects, a stretched panorama of the northern Catskills ravine that climbs about 1500 feet from Palenville to Haine's Falls, a distance of about 5 miles. It combines Haines Falls at the head of the Clove, as seen from the ledge of Sunset Rock on South Mountain, its north flank, with Kaaterskill Falls further west on that flank, invisible from Sunset Rock.

    A favorite subject of the artist, Kaaterskill Clove was easily accessible from Gifford's family home in Hudson, NY. He drew and painted in and around the Clove almost every year, usually in the autumn, as he did in 1867, with the preponderance of this work dating from the early- to mid-1860s. Hudson is almost directly across the Hudson River from the town of Catskill, the river landing for the northern Catskills east of Palenville, where the "father" of the Hudson River School and Gifford's early inspiration, Thomas Cole, lived and had his studio (now a historic site).

    Worthington Whittredge credited Gifford with opening the scenic Clove to the artists, with tourists following in their wake. [Gifford Memorial Meeting of the Century (New York: 1880, p. 44.] During the 1820s visitors to the Catskills were primarily interested in the expansive view east across the Hudson Valley to the Berkshires, seen from the Pine Orchard on South Mountain, above Palenville, where the famous Catskill Mountain House was built in 1823-1824 to accommodate them. Younger artists preferred to avoid the crowds, social constraints and expense of this tourist mecca. Beginning in 1846, making use of tannery roads, Gifford found meager accommodations with settlers further inland, first at Brocket's in the Clove, then at the Scribner's Mill family house on Lake Creek, the outlet of South and North Lakes west of the Mountain House, that feeds Kaaterskill Falls. Scribner's was expanded during the 1840s to provide room and board for the artists. Whittredge recalled Gifford's invitation to "the wives and sisters of those present whose culinary gifts he was acquainted with" to join the men and improve the cooking. This in turn attracted so many vacationers that the artists and their friends gradually relocated to the newer Laurel House further downstream at the brink of Kaaterskill Falls that was built in 1852 and greatly expanded during the 1860s, Gifford joining them beginning in 1871. For a fee Laurel House, following Scribners' precedent, controlled the volume of the Falls with a dam as a tourist attraction.

    Over one hundred Catskills paintings are listed in the Gifford Memorial Catalogue (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1881), based on the artist's lost account books and outreach to known owners at that time. Of these about twelve specify Kaaterskill Clove in their titles (consistently spelled "Kauterskill"), four of them large exhibition pieces (including the Metropolitan Museum of Art's A Gorge in the Mountains: Kauterskill Clove of 1862, mislabeled Kauterskill Falls in the early catalogues), and about twenty more identify subjects in or around the Clove, including Kaaterskill Falls. Other less specific Catskills titles, such as this painting's, were also likely to have been in that vicinity. Souvenir of the Catskills is not among those catalogued, having been gifted to Miss Buck, probably freshly painted, and never entered into the artist's accounts.

    The identity of Miss Buck is unknown; she was surely among the artists' entourage, one of the many women "descendants" of Gifford's earlier female invitees, perhaps an artist herself. Clues to her connection to Gifford and the scenery with which he was identified are evident in the painting. The vantage point of Sunset Rock was favored by Gifford for its late afternoon view into haze-diffused golden sunlight, centered above Haines Falls. All of his other known drawings and paintings of this view feature Haines Falls in the distance-but never include Kaaterskill Falls, which is hidden in its own shallow ravine along the north flank. This painting, however, makes a point of including bright streaks of Kaaterskill Falls' gushing, light-reflectent water, no doubt courtesy of Laurel House-broad strokes of paint applied to the mountainside almost diagrammatically, perhaps even jokingly, along with an emphatic representation of the white structure of Laurel House above it, the whole area dramatically, calculatedly spotlighted through a break in dark clouds. Also unlike all the rest of Gifford's known Clove imagery, which through tonal contrast exaggerates the substantiality of foreground rocks and trees to offset the impalpable aerial-luminous distance, the near elements of this painting are allowed to fade into the darkened hillside at the left, which in turn contrasts to the contrived, highlighted area of interest-to Miss Buck, no doubt.

    Unlike the painting, the pencil drawing of the umbrella on the verso of the painting's paper panel, with its precise delineation of shapes of shadows and lights, is clearly based on direct observation. This representation of the artists' familiar plein-air paraphernalia is obviously its own Souvenir of the Catskills, and may stand in for Gifford himself-or Miss Buck. A more than casual acquaintance seems implied by the generosity of Gifford's gesture.


    Condition Report*: A pencil drawing of an umbrella on the reverse. 1/8 inch loss to the board along the extreme top edge. Under UV exam, there appears to be a few tiny touches of inpaint along the extreme edges of the board. Minor frame abrasion along the extreme edges. Board is slightly convex.
    Framed Dimensions 14.75 X 16.25 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. Heritage does not guarantee the condition of frames and shall not be liable for any damage/scratches to frames, glass/acrylic coverings, original boxes, display accessories, or art that has slipped in frames. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    November, 2021
    5th Friday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 4
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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