One of the most iconic images representing plein air painting, this relatively small painting (above) by Sanford R. Gifford promotes outdoor painting to artists and collectors. The artist put himself on a rock ledge on Mount Desert in Maine and highlighted his supplies, painting procedures, and finished painting. It was as though he was saying that artists should honor the actual appearance of their subjects and that collectors should buy what is true to the visual world.
Gifford was a second-generation Hudson River School painter who built a reputation as a master of light and atmosphere. When he was an infant, Gifford moved with his family to Hudson, New York, where an older brother, Charles, became enamored of art at an early age and may have received some early instruction from Henry Ary, a landscape and portrait painter who had moved to Hudson from Catskill, where he had been a neighbor of Thomas Cole. Gifford attended Brown University for two years in 1842–44, but did not graduate, telling his parents he wished to be an artist.