Hunter Mountain, Twilight
In 1861 Sanford Robinson Gifford enlisted in the National Guard in New York and spent parts of the next two years on duty in Baltimore and Washington, DC. Around the time that he left the National Guard, his brother Edward died while serving with the 128th New York Regiment in Louisiana. Gifford’s personal grief, combined with the nation’s collective wartime losses, contributed to the somber mood of Hunter Mountain, Twilight. The stump-filled landscape calls to mind photographs of dead bodies strewn across battlefields. Despite its reminders of Civil War devastation, the painting may have a more hopeful message. The cows and the farmhouse imply that the land is still productive. If dead trees and fading light recalled the war’s ravages, they also promised eventual rebirth.