“The painting Lake Scene by Sanford Gifford, depicts a tranquil autumn landscape in the eastern United States. Lake Scene may depict Lake Champlain from the Vermont side looking west toward New York. The painting is specifically characteristic of Gifford in its use of hot colors and tinted atmospheric effects. Atmosphere is a unifier of all features of the landscape, rather than a semi-obscuring veil.
As one takes a closer look, the painting’s empty foreground becomes strikingly apparent in what seemed at first glance to be a heavily foliated view. Further inspection reveals two small figures in the left middle distance. They are constructing or mending a wall out of stone and logs, perhaps fashioned from the felled trees whose stumps are visible in the foreground.
Gifford’s painting is not merely a picturesque landscape. The image portrays the American wilderness and it inevitable subjugation to the civilizing effects of a growing democracy. It is about primeval Eden that attracted many to its shores and the eventual nationalist fervor that took hold and reshaped it both literally and philosophically. Consciously or not, Gifford’s work reflected an optimistic view. The work is ultimately about America in transition and, as such, is a study in contrasts-idealism and rationalism, progress and destruction, boundlessness and perimeters.”
Excerpt taken from 150 Years of American Painting
Come to the October First Friday event this Friday October 4th from 6-10pm at the MOA.