The portraitist, engraver, and genre painter Asher B. Durand (1796–1886) was one of the artists who discovered and promoted Thomas Cole in 1825. In the following decade, his interests shifted from engraving to painting with the encouragement of his patron, Luman Reed. In 1837, he accompanied his friend Cole on a sketching expedition to Schroon Lake in the Adirondacks and soon after began to concentrate on landscape painting. He spent summers sketching in the Catskills and Adirondacks, and the White Mountains of New Hampshire, making hundreds of drawings and oil sketches that were later incorporated into large-scale finished paintings. Durand’s studies from nature, often depicting quiet rocky outcroppings and meticulously detailed trees, are prized in public collections throughout the United States today.
As one of the primary theorists of the emerging Hudson River School, Durand was a proponent of naturalism within the movement. He was deeply moved while traveling in England by the Romantic landscapes of the British painter John Constable (1776–1837). In “Letters on Landscape Painting,” (The Crayon, 1855), Durand held Constable’s naturalism as a standard for young landscape painters to follow, and championed nature as the manifestation of God. Durand was instrumental in changing accepted studio practice by encouraging artists to strive for realism by creating plein-air (“open air”, or “outdoor”) drawings and sketches in oils before returning to the studio to complete academic paintings. This interest in capturing the light effects and atmosphere of the outdoors ushered in a liveliness and spontaneity to American landscape painting beyond the aesthetic dictates of the Sublime as championed by Cole.
Asher B. Durand (1796–1886) View on the Hudson near Denning’s Point
Oil on canvas, 15 1/16 x 23 7/8 inches
Initialed lower left: ABD
Image courtesy of Questroyal Fine Art, LLC