Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Asher Brown Durand

Kindred Spirits
oil on canvas
117 x 92 cm
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas, USA

This painting was commissioned by the merchant-collector Jonathan Sturges as a gift for William Cullen Bryant in gratitude for the nature poet's moving eulogy to Thomas Cole, who had died suddenly in early 1848. It shows Cole, who had been Jonathan Sturges mentor, standing in a gorge in Catskills in company of a mutual friend William Cullen Bryant.

Asher Brown Durand (1796-1886), born in Jefferson Village (now Maplewood), New Jersey, was the American painter, engraver, and illustrator, one of the founders of the Hudson River school of landscape painting. He exemplified the fresh ideal of naturalism for the second-generation painters that came to be called the Hudson River School.

He made seasonal trips in the hills along the Hudson River, to sketch in pencil and oil directly from mostly near-at-hand natural motifs. From these, he fashioned progressively vivid compositions typically of woodland interiors, culminating in masterpieces of organic verisimilitude.

He ardently promoted the practice of painting outdoors from humble natural objects as the route to learning and refining one's art as opposed to learning from other art or artists. He functioned as the personal exemplar to several of the younger painters who gathered about him in a veritable summer sketching colony in the White Mountains. Despite his fervent espousal of naturalism in landscape art, he failed to pursue it consistently, and many of the paintings of his long maturity reflect more conventional landscape modes based on seventeenth- and eighteenth-century French and Dutch antecedents. Critical acclaim declined accordingly, however, even after his retirement in 1869 to his native Maplewood, he was scarcely forgotten. In 2007, the Brooklyn Museum exhibited nearly sixty of Durand's works in the first monographic exhibition devoted to the painter in more than thirty-five years.