Many descriptors of painters and paintings are tossed around rather freely, and one of them is “a painter of light.” But truly, if this expression were reserved for only one 19th-century Hudson River School artist, it would have to be Sanford Gifford. Nobody matches his ability to paint atmosphere, silence, and sunlight right on to the canvas. Gifford was a founder of the Metropolitan Museum in 1870, and at his untimely death a decade later he was the subject of the museum’s very first monographic retrospective. It was almost a hundred years before the second show of his work was held at the University of Texas in 1970 and fully 123 years before he appeared again at the Met, in 2003. These shows and catalogues must have helped: in 2005, a Long Island beach scene sold for $2.1 million at auction. The first Gifford in this collection was an early purchase by my father from Ken Lux in 1967. Entitled simply New York Landscape, from the Skidmore College Collection, it opened our eyes to just how good a “little picture” can be. Then in 1971, my Kennedy connection told me a spectacular Gifford was coming back to the gallery, being traded in toward a larger painting, and the owner was content receiving in credit exactly what he had paid for it years earlier. If I wanted the picture, I could have it for the same figure: $1,350. I became the proud owner of a true icon of American landscape.