George Lafayette Clough was born September 18, 1824, in Auburn, New York, and was that city's leading landscapist and, known as a Hudson River School painter, became Auburn's most noted resident painter of the mid-century. His mother was widowed shortly after his birth, and he was raised without paternal influence. He had little formal education and was employed by the age of ten. By age fifteen he had taken up painting, and his first and informal art influence came from the portraitist, Randall Palmer.
In 1844 Clough opened his own studio in Auburn. About that time Charles Loring Elliott came to Auburn to paint a portrait of William Henry Seward, a local statesman, and chose Clough's studio for that purpose. Elliott became Clough's teacher, and in 1847, he began formal study for several months in Elliott's New York City studio. He returned to Auburn from that experience a competent professional portraitist. Two of his portraits were exhibited at the National Academy of Design the following year. He got married and briefly shared a studio in Auburn with Joseph Meeker.
In the early 1850's, he traveled to France, Holland, Italy, and Germany to study. While in each location, Clough would study the local painting traditions and copy some of their works, a common custom of American artists. Upon return to the United States, his efforts concentrated primarily on landscapes. His favorite locales included the Adirondacks, and the woodland areas of upper New York State, Pennsylvania, New England, and Eastern Ohio.
When he moved to Cleveland about 1862, Clough began painting urban views. Spending most of the 1880's in the New York City area, he became involved in the Brooklyn Art Association.
He returned to his hometown of Auburn several years before his death.
Michael David Zellman, 300 Years of American Art, p. 208