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R. Swain Gifford


Centurion, 1868–1905

Full Name Robert Swain Gifford

Born 23 December 1840 in Nonamesset Island, Massachusetts

Died 13 January 1905 in New York (Manhattan), New York

Buried Rural Cemetery, New Bedford, Massachusetts

Proposed by Walter Brown

Elected 1 February 1868 at age twenty-seven

Century Memorial

The Century had just attained its twenty-first year when, in 1868, Robert Swain Gifford was elected a member, and during the nearly two-score years until his death he represented with delightful completeness the essential characteristics of the Association. He was an artist by the grace and force of natural selection. Born on Naushon Island [sic: Nonamesset Island, which is adjacent to Naushon], Massachusetts, in 1840, and connected on both sides of his family with the hardy mariners of New Bedford and Nantucket, he always kept something of the sailor in his sturdy frame and square-hewn features, and something of the sailor’s independence and self-reliance in his mode of thought and of work. His first training, as it happened, was in the studio of a Dutch marine painter in New Bedford; after a couple of years he came to New York; then followed, at intervals in his regular work, quite extensive journeyings in Southern Europe and Northern Africa, as far as the edge of the Sahara, which gave him Oriental and semi-Oriental subjects for some of his most popular paintings. He followed the usual course in his connection with the Academy of Design, the Society of American Artists, and the American Water Color Society, with all of which he was successively allied. He had an extraordinary aptitude for both oils and water color, and control of the capabilities of each. His place in the artistic community was honorable and well recognized. His sense of beauty in nature was at once strong and delicate; the range of his achievement was remarkable, and he manifested to the very last a singularly steady and vigorous growth. As a Centurion Gifford is warmly, tenderly remembered. His shrewd judgment, his manly and generous sentiments, his quiet humor, made him a companion whose charm increased with intimacy and passing time.

Edward Cary
1906 Century Association Yearbook