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 William Birdsall Gifford  (1839 - 1929)

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Lived/Active: Illinois/California/New York / England      Known for: painting

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Ad Code: 3
William Birdsall Gifford
from Auction House Records.
Venetian Scene
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following is from Peter Kostoulakos, AOA, NEAA: Fine Art Consultant,

William Birdsall Gifford was born in Aurora, New York in 1839 and died of pneumonia on February 14, 1929 at the home of his niece, Mrs. S. Irving Howard, 182 Madison Avenue, New York City. Gifford was raised as a Quaker and, with his mother's encouragement, developed a craving for art by age 7. His more serious studies started at age 15 in New York City; later his education took him to Philadelphia and Paris.

At the young age of 17, he was studying with Peter Frederick Rothermel (1817-1895), painter of the famous "Battle of Gettysburg" scene. As a student at the Carolus-Duran School of Art in Paris, he became acquainted with John Singer Sargent (1856-1925), Frank Duveneck (1848-1919), and William (Will) Henry Howe(1846-1929). He also traveled to Italy and painted a number of Venetian scenes, which proved very popular.

During his more than seventy years as an artist, Gifford established his first studio in Chicago, worked for a time in Philadelphia, and then moved on to California. His San Francisco studio and much of his work was destroyed in the earthquake and fire of 1906. In 1911 he received permission from the Turkish government to make a panoramic study of Jerusalem and, while painting the "Sea of Galilee", he lived with the monks of the neighboring monastery.

Best known as a painter of Biblical themes set in Jerusalem. Mr. Gifford had said, "I desired to convey something more than photographic recordings. I wanted to present something of the grandeur of Palestine, some of the moods of nature that produced historic echoes in the moods of men". At the time of his death, he was about to begin his "Wooing of Rebecca", the last of five Biblical studies he planned to do.

Gifford exhibited with the National Academy of Design, 1881-1884; and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia, PA, 1883-1885. One of his Venetian scenes still hangs in the Seward Mansion in Auburn, NY and he is represented in Grand Rapids by a painting titled "Merchant Boat of Venice" that was presented by Mrs. Gifford to the St. Cecilia Society.

It is befitting that this article ends with the beginning of William Birdsall Gifford's obituary:

References: Who Was Who in American Art, 1999, vol. II, page 1282; Davenport's Art Reference 2003/2004, page 772; Mallett, page 000;; Boston Art Club 1855-1950, Vose Galleries, page 000; Boston Art Club Exhibition Record 1873-1909, page 000; Smithsonian Institution Research Information System; The Grand Rapids Herald, Grand Rapids, MI, February 15, 1929, page 6.
Exhibition Record (Museums, Institutions and Awards):
National Academy of Design, 1881-84; Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, 1883-85; San Francisco Art Ass’n, 1886-91

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
William Birdsall Gifford (1839-1929)

Painter.  Born in Aurora, NY in 1839.  Gifford studied with Peter Rothermel and in Paris with Carolus-Duran.  He was based in Chicago and Philadelphia prior to moving to San Francisco in the mid-1880s.  He advertised as a portrait painter.  His paintings were handled by Gump's.  Much of his work was destroyed in the earthquake in 1906.  Other subjects indicate travel to Jerusalem, the Adriatic, and Venice.  He died in New York City on February 14, 1929.
Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"
Census; City Directory.
Nearly 20,000 biographies can be found in Artists in California 1786-1940 by Edan Hughes and is available for sale ($150). For a full book description and order information please click here.

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