Sanford Robinson Gifford (American, 1823-1880), 'The Wilderness,' Oil on canvas, 1860. Purchased with funds from the Libbey Endowment, Gift of Edward Drummond Libbey, 1951.403
Sanford Gifford's The Wilderness presents a romantic view of a vast American landscape dominated by a rugged peak (perhaps modeled on Mount Katahdin in Maine). This wilderness is not uninhabited—Gifford includes a Native American family on the near shore and a canoe in the lake, based on sketches he made of the Micmacs (Mi'kmaqs) in Halifax Basin, Nova Scotia.
A masterpiece of what has been called luminism—precisely rendered, poetic depictions of landscapes that focus on realistic effects of light and atmosphere—The Wilderness evokes an idealized vision of humans living harmoniously with nature. Though in reality such vistas were being encroached upon by industrialization and urbanization, The Wilderness is an homage to what had become central to American identity: the space, beauty, and unspoiled land that spoke of national destiny, spiritual renewal, and endless possibilities.
Print Size: 38" x 24"