Mount Mansfield is a preparatory sketch for a larger painting that was first exhibited at the 1859 National Academy of Design Annual Exhibition. The exhibited canvas was considered by the artist to be among his most important pictures and the work established Gifford’s reputation as one of America’s premier landscape painters. Gifford painted the panoramic view of Champlain Valley, seen from the summit of Mt. Mansfield, the highest elevation in Vermont, after a sketching excursion in the summer of 1858. The artist was known for creating quick, on-the-spot pencil sketches that took about 30 seconds to complete. When Gifford returned to his New York studio, he painted larger oil sketches based on his small drawings and notations about color and composition. The paintings usually took about two hours to complete and were used as preparation for his larger canvases. Here, the artist has dramatically juxtaposed the foreground ledge on which two hikers and their dog stand with an inaccessible and expansive middle ground and background. The composition suggests a vast, untamed wilderness. American landscape painters were considered by the public to be daring in their pursuit of scenery, and through the success of their pictures, popularized the locations they painted. Gifford would eventually paint 18 canvases that featured the magnificent views of and around Mount Mansfield.