Asher Brown Durand

Asher Brown Durand

Durand, Asher Brown, 1796-1886, American painter and engraver, b. near Newark, N.J. He established a reputation by his engravings of Trumbull's Signing of the Declaration of Independence, followed by a series of engraved portraits of eminent contemporaries. After 1835, Durand devoted himself to painting, producing portraits of several of the Presidents. After a year of travel and study in Europe, he turned to landscape painting, becoming a leader of the Hudson River school. At first he was painstaking and meticulous, but later his rendering became more spontaneous. Examples of his work are In the Woods and The Beeches (Metropolitan Mus.); Woodland Brook and Franconia Notch (N.Y. Public Library); and Mountain Forest (Corcoran Gall.). Durand was a founder of the National Academy of Design, New York City, and its president from 1845 to 1861. Two of his allegorical paintings are there, Morning of Life and Evening of Life.

See biography by his son, John Durand (1894, repr. 1970).

Asher Brown Durand (August 21, 1796September 17, 1886) was an American painter of the Hudson River School.

Early life

Durand was born in and eventually died in Maplewood, New Jersey (then called Jefferson Village), the eighth of eleven children; his father was a watchmaker and a silversmith. He lived in what is now known as the Durand-Hedden house, which is now designated as a historic landmark.

Durand was apprenticed to an engraver from 1812 to 1817, later entering into a partnership the owner of the firm, who asked him to run the firm's New York branch. He engraved Declaration of Independence for John Trumbull in 1823, which established Durand's reputation as one of the country's finest engravers. Durand helped organize the New York Drawing Association in 1825, which would become the National Academy of Design; he would serve the organization as president from 1845 to 1861.

Painting career

His interest shifted from engraving to oil painting around 1830 with the encouragement of his patron, Luman Reed. In 1837, he accompanied his friend Thomas Cole on a sketching expedition to Schroon Lake in the Adirondacks and soon after he began to concentrate on landscape painting. He spent summers sketching in the Catskills, Adirondacks, and the White Mountains of New Hampshire, making hundreds of drawings and oil sketches that were later incorporated into finished academy pieces which helped to define the Hudson River School.

Durand is particularly remembered for his detailed portrayals of trees, rocks, and foliage. He was an advocate for drawing directly from nature with as much realism as possible. Durand wrote, "Let [the artist] scrupulously accept whatever [nature] presents him until he shall, in a degree, have become intimate with her infinity...never let him profane her sacredness by a willful departure from truth."

Like other Hudson River School artists, Durand also believed that nature was an ineffable manifestation of God. He expressed this sentiment and his general views on art in his "Letters on Landscape Painting" in The Crayon, a mid-19th century New York art periodical. Wrote Durand, "[T]he true province of Landscape Art is the representation of the work of God in the visible creation..."

Durand is noted for his 1849 painting Kindred Spirits which shows fellow Hudson River School artist Thomas Cole and poet William Cullen Bryant in a Catskills landscape. This was painted as a tribute to Cole upon his death in 1848. The painting, donated by Bryant's daughter Julia to the New York Public Library in 1904, was sold by the library through Sotheby's at an auction in May 2005 to Alice Walton for a purported $35 million. The sale was conducted as a sealed, first bid auction, so the actual sales price is not known. At $35 million, however, it would be a record price paid for an American painting at the time.

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. The show, entitled "Kindred Spirits: Asher B. Durand and the American Landscape," was on view from March 30 to July 29, 2007.

See also


  • Howat, John K. et al. American Paradise: The World of the Hudson River School, The Metropolitan Museum of Art: New York, 1987.
  • Rosenbaum, Lee. "At the New York Public Library, It's Sell First, Raise Money Later," The Wall Street Journal, Tuesday, November 1, 2005.
  • "An Old-Time Artist Dead," in The New York Times, September 20, 1886

External links

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