Robert Swain Gifford’s American landscapes show the influence both of the artists of the Hudson River School, the first painters to make a specialty of capturing the peculiarly American qualities of the country’s landscape, and the Luminists, who were interested in depicting the effects of light, particularly in marine and coastal views. He was born near Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts and studied painting in New Bedford before moving to Boston, where he established a studio in 1864. The previous year he had exhibited for the first time at the National Academy of Design
in New York, where he showed annually (except for 1893 and 1904) until his death. In 1866 he moved to New York, which, although he traveled extensively, would be his home base for most of his career.
In the late 1860s Gifford traveled in the western United States, and he later made trips to Europe, Egypt, and North Africa. These journeys gave him new subjects for his work, inspiring a second specialty: Orientalist views. The titles in his exhibition history indicate that he devoted more and more of his attention to these subjects as time went on. Gifford exhibited widely and belonged to numerous artists’ organizations in the United States and England.