Description Gifford was an important Hudson River school luminist. He began his career as a portrait painter but in 1843 became attracted to landscapes. This direction was solidified by a sketching tour of the Catskills and Berkshires. Gifford greatly admired the work of Thomas Cole but rejected his heroic allegorical themes focusing instead on subtle yet dramatic light effects. In the 1850s he traveled and studied throughout Europe, painting with Albert Bierstadt in Italy, and meeting the great art critic John Ruskin. He made another extended trip through Europe from 1868-70. This painting depicts the Arch of Nero. In 1846 the same subject had been painted viewed from the opposite side by Cole (this painting is now in the Newark Museum, New Jersey, accession number 57.24). The Brooklyn Museum holds a sketchbook by Gifford dating from 1867-1868 (accession number 17.141) and pages 70 and 71 show studies of figures and the arch. On the right hand page is a sketch within a ruled "frame" that almost exactly anticipates the Walters painting.
Provenance Purchased by Henry James, Esq., New York, 1874; Priscilla Ridgely Schaff, Baltimore; by bequest to Walters Art Museum, June 1982.
Inscriptions [Signature and date] At lower left: S.R. Gifford 1871; [Title] On back of canvas: The Arch of Nero.
Credit Estate of Mrs. Priscilla Ridgely Schaff, 1982
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