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    SANFORD ROBINSON GIFFORD (American, 1823-1880)
    A Sketch at the Camp on the La Bonté, Wyoming Territory, 1870
    Oil on canvas
    6 x 13 inches (15.2 x 33.0 cm)
    Artist's estate stamp verso
    Inscribed on stretcher: La Bonté / Wyoming Terr

    Private collection, Los Angeles, California.

    Metropolitan Museum of Art, A Memorial Catalogue of the Paintings of Sanford Robinson Gifford, N.A, New York, 1881, n.p., no. 554.

    According to Dr. Ila Weiss, in a letter dated October 30, 2013, which accompanies this lot:

    "This is a well documented painting. The sale stamp places it among works remaining in Gifford's studio after his death, auctioned by Thomas E. Kirby & Co., New York, in 1881. The only possible match is "At the Camp on the La Bonté, Wyoming Territory," dated Aug. 15, 1870, 5 ½ by 13 in., #119 in the auction catalogue, The Sanford R. Gifford Collection, Part II, which was #554 in the Gifford Memorial Catalogue (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1881) as "A Sketch at the Camp on the La Bonté, Wyoming Territory," dated Aug. 15, 1870. The date no longer appears on the painting, most likely for one of two reasons: it may have been on the label, verso, that has been largely removed; or it may have derived from either Gifford's lost notebook record of his paintings, known to the compilers of the Memorial Catalogue; or from records of the expedition on which it was painted.

    "In July 1870, with fellow artists Worthington Whittredge and John F. Kensett, Gifford traveled west along newly completed railroads to the Rocky Mountains, to sketch in the open air. In Denver around August 1 they met Ferdinand V. Hayden who was in charge of the U. S. Geological Survey of the Territories, 1870-1878. Hayden's description of an upcoming foray into the Wyoming Territory, involving landscape photography, in which Gifford was interested, evidently caught the artist's imagination: he abruptly changed course and joined the Survey, paintbox and easel in hand. The expedition's daily whereabouts and activities were recorded by William H. Jackson, their art-trained, official photographer. The two like-minded men, Gifford and Jackson, bonded and collaborated on photography. On Aug. 14 the party reached the Black Hills and traveled west along their base to the La Bonta River, where they stopped for two nights: Jackson pronounced it a "beautiful camp." He had described the party on Aug. 7 as consisting of twenty men, including eight teamsters and a cook, outfitted with "four wall tents and an A tent for the cook ¾ and ... flys for mess tent." They had a wagon "almost full of preserved fruits, hams, and all the et ceteras of the kitchen," which he considered the best mess outfit of any expedition. [William H. Jackson Diary, Rare Books and MSS, New York Public Library.]

    "Gifford's sketch of Aug. 15 was a memento of the "beautiful camp." A personal record rather than a study for a larger painting, it captures, with subtle color adjustments (impossible, of course, for photography at the time) the camp with its various tents and wagons, edged with sunlight and relieved against cottonwoods and low hills, and a glimpse of snow peaks in the far distance. With great economy of means Gifford establishes the sweep of grassland from dark brown plant clusters in the right foreground, through layers of lighter and darker gray-green grasses against a red-brown underpainting to the middle-distant encampment, with a yellow-tan field beyond the trees and a grayed blue-green hillside farther off. Typical of his method, he allows the visible dark underpainting to unify the expanse of land and a contrasting, reflective white underpainting to inform skylight. (The pentimento pencil marks over trees, also characteristic of Gifford, indicate small changes from the original underdrawing as he proceeded.) Tiny figures can be discerned in camp, both standing and seated on the ground, some silhouetted and others catching the light. An iridescent mix of pale yellows and gray blues tints the softly glowing sky, with yellowish impasto gestures subtly suggesting clouds in warm sunshine. Jackson's photograph of their camp at Red Buttes, between Aug. 23 and 25, is so similar to the composition of Gifford's painting at La Bonté that he must have had either Gifford's work mind or his direct assistance, or both. [Reproduced in Ila Weiss, Poetic Landscape: the Art and Experience of Sanford R. Gifford (1987), 287.] In one of Jackson's photographs, taken Aug. 9, Gifford is seen painting at his portable easel in the Valley of the Chugwater, as he would have done at La Bonté. [Both the photograph and Gifford's painting are reproduced in Kevin J. Avery and Franklin Kelly, Hudson River School Visions: The Landscapes of Sanford R. Gifford (2003), 196, 197.] Gifford's "Sketch at the Camp on the La Bonté, Wyoming Territory" is a masterful understatement of one of the artist's memorable and delightful experiences."

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

    Condition Report*: Slightly discolored varnish; under UV examination, inpainting along extreme edges to address frame abrasion and several dots of inpainting in bank of trees near right edge.
    *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.

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    Auction Dates
    May, 2014
    10th Saturday
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