ROBERT SWAIN GIFFORD
The Citadel of Cairo, Evening
1871, oil on canvas
signed and dated R. Swain Gifford '71, l.l.
28 1/4 x 33 1/4 in., frame: 41 1/4 x 46 in.
Provenance: By descent in the family of the artist.
Exhibitions: Old Dartmouth Historical Society Whaling Museum, New Bedford, MA (label verso).
Other Notes: Born in 1840 on the small island of Nonamesset, Massachusetts, Robert Swain Gifford spent his formative years in New Bedford, Massachusetts, before settling in Nonquitt, Massachusetts in 1886. After showing promise as an artist from an early age, Gifford trained with Dutch marine artist Albert Van Beest from 1854-1857, and later with noted New Bedford artist William Bradford. In 1870-74, Gifford traveled to Europe and Northern Africa, expanding his oeuvre as he depicted the locales he visited on his travels, applying the techniques he had learned painting New England seascapes. Gifford was also an avid draughtsman and illustrator, producing scores of drawings and etchings from this period as well. Fellow artist F.D. Millet reflected on Gifford in a 1906 memorial: "He saw and recorded the landscape in its fullest and warmest aspects; he was enchanted by the glow of color on grass, in rocks, in foliage, and in water; he saw new glories in sunset skies and found new charms in the sweeping lines of the beach and the character of stunted, wind-beaten trees. There is in many of his works a note of suggestive sadness, the true note of nature in the time of the fall of the leaf."Citadel of Cairo is an exemplar of so much of what Millet describes: the depth of Gifford's artistic talent, from the deftly painted figures in the foreground and the exact rendering of the architecture to the impressive blending of colors in the evening sky. The luminous work is one that has with good reason remained a favorite of Gifford's family for nearly 150 years.