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Charles Henry Gifford

 (1839 - 1904)
Charles Henry Gifford was active/lived in Massachusetts.  Charles Gifford is known for marine, landscape and portrait painting.

Charles Henry Gifford

Biography from the Archives of askART

The following biography of " CHARLES HENRY GIFFORD," has been provided by Myrtice (GIFFORD) Forsythe of Lufkin, Texas.

Charles Henry Gifford is well known for his works in water colors as is his oils and his pictures have found a ready sale, not only in all parts of the United States but in Europe.

Charles Henry Gifford was born in Fairhaven, Massachusetts July 13, 1839, the son of Benjamin R. and Betsey (Barstow) Gifford. His father was a ship carpenter. Young Gifford was educated in the public schools of the town. In his boyhood he could draw well and while yet a mere youth he gained admission to the art gallery connected with the music store of John Hopkins, on Union Street in New Bedford, where Albert Bierstadt, another famous artist, had one of his pictures on exhibition. The view stirred all the latent talent in young Gifford, and he told his mother he intended to be an artist. He was given some pennies with which he bought dry paints. Making his own brushes from hog bristles and hen feathers, he painted his first picture upon a piece of canvas of his own making.

Although young Charles Gifford wanted to become a painter, his parents desired him to learn a trade. He tried carpentry but finally went to Middleboro where he learned to be a shoemaker. Upon his completion of his apprenticeship he returned to Fairhaven where he carried on business until 1862, when he enlisted in Co. I, third regiment, of M. V. M., which was recruited in Fairhaven and which served for nine months in North Carolina. During the term of service, Company I, under Caption Ewer was detached from the regiment at Newberne, and formed part of the garrison of Plymouth, N. C.

The Rebel land forces made a descent on Plymouth, Dec. 1863 and 14 prisoners, including Charles H. Gifford and others of Co. I, were captured and carried to Richmond. Charles Gifford and the others were imprisoned at Petersburg. While in Richmond they were in the famous Libby Prison. Although in the place but one month, the hardships preyed heavily on Charles and he contracted a chronic ailment, the effects of which caused him to be kept at the parole camp at Annapolis, MD., for five months. When he reached home his regiment had been mustered out and discharged.

For a time Charles Henry Gifford worked at his trade, but in the summer of 1864, he again enlisted as a member of the 23rd unattached company of Massachusetts Infantry for 100 days. He was stationed at Readville, Mass. , guarding rebel prisoners.

When finally discharged from the service, Charles Gifford adopted the profession of an artist, and for the rest of his life, followed it. As for truth to nature, she was his only teacher, it appearing that never did he take a conventional lesson. He located in Fairhaven, and in 1866 he was married to Miss Cordelia Palmer of Medford, Mass. He raised a family of five daughters.

Charles Gifford, as the years went by, became better known, and his works more widely sought after. He opened a studio in New Bedford and for two winters had a studio in New York City. In 1879 he spent two months traveling to England, Scotland and Ireland. He had also made frequent trips to Maine and New Hampshire. He also had many pupils, many of whom won considerable reputation.

His residence on Lafayette Street, was built 28 years before his death in 1904. His studio was located in the tower that he had built and from this an excellent view was obtained. Its dimensions were 60 feet high and 20 feet square. Charles was a close student of nature and his marine views have given him a high reputation in oil painting. While his treatment of such subjects was always marked by careful study and fidelity to detail, perhaps as a water color painter he will be best remembered and appreciated. In still life scenes, both in oils and water colors, he did some excellent work.

In the latter years of his life, Charles Gifford was afflicted with pulmonary trouble, which greatly interfered with his work and finally caused his death. He died at his home on Lafayette Street. His health had not been good for several years. His age was 66 years, 6 months, 7 days.

Biography from Roger King Fine Art
Charles Henry Gifford was born in the seaport town of Fairhaven near New Bedford during the heyday of the whaling industry.  The son of a ship's carpenter, he was first apprenticed to that trade, then learned shoemaking, but abandoned both to fight in the Civil War.  He was prisoner of war in a Confederate prison where he developed chronic health problems that plagued him for the rest of his life.

After the War he returned to Fairhaven and devoted himself to painting.  He was essentially self- taught but was exposed to the rich artistic milieu of New Bedford. Alfred van Beest, William Bradford, Albert Bierstadt, R. Swain Gifford, and Albert Pinkham Ryder were among the artists who lived, worked, or exhibited in the city. Many years later Gifford wrote: "What set me to painting was...seeing an exhibition of Bierstadt's paintings...I was so enthused that I came home, got some cloth and paint and went right to work".

Gifford was a typical Luminist painter, concerned with both subtle and dramatic effects of light, stillness, precise realism, and softly glowing surfaces.  He is perhaps best known for the small canvases measuring about nine by fourteen inches that he called "my little gems".

He painted along the New England Coast, including Nantucket, Cuttyhunk, and the Elizabeth Islands, and inland to the White Mountains, Niagara Falls and Lake George. Toward the end of his career he worked more frequently in watercolor, where his renditions of both naturalistic detail and subtle atmospheric effects often reached their apex.

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About  Charles Henry Gifford

Born:  1839 - Fairhaven, Massachusetts
Died:   1904 - Fairhaven, Massachusetts
Known for:  marine, landscape and portrait painting