Saturday, November 3, 2012

Part 2: Durand’s America

(Part 2 of a series) Several of Durand’s colleagues, including Frederic Church, Sanford Gifford, and Jasper Cropsey, crossed oceans and continents in search of ever more exotic subjects to paint. By contrast, Durand believed that the best motifs could be found in one’s own country. “Go not abroad in search of material,” he wrote, “while the virgin charms of our native land have claims on your deepest affections.”3


John Durand remarked that his father enjoyed the wilderness regions in New York State and New Hampshire “before railways had penetrated to their recesses, where only a few scattered inhabitants could be found.” He recalled that his father spent all his leisure hours “devoted to painting from nature."

"He set his palette before leaving his house in the city and carried it, with a home-made easel and camp-stool, to his favorite sketching-ground...He was ever ready to rough it over corduroy, muddy, or sandy roads, in stage-coach and on buck-boards...whenever the colors or forms of rocks, trees, or mountains answered his search for the beautiful.”4

Best known for his painting Kindred Spirits, which portrays Thomas Cole and poet William Cullen Bryant standing together in a Catskill clove, Durand produced a body of landscapes ranging from mossy forest interiors to quiet streamscapes and pastoral farm scenes. Most scholars credit Durand and Cole equally as the cofounders of the Hudson River School, America’s first unique tradition of painting. 

After Cole’s death in 1848, Durand was acknowledged as the leader of the movement, serving for sixteen years as the president of the National Academy of Design, where he set aside a special room for the exhibition of nature studies. Durand’s work, including many of his so-called “transcripts from nature,” was the focus a major retrospective exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum a few years ago.


Linda Ferber, curator of the exhibit, has described Durand as “one of the earliest American painters to give up conventional compositional models based on European prototypes and to paint directly in response to what he actually saw in nature.”5
---------
3. Asher B. Durand, “Letters on Landscape Painting. Letter II,” Crayon 1, no. (10 January, 1855), 34.
4. John Durand, The Life and Times of A.M. Durand, (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1894. Reprint. New York: Kennedy Graphics, 1970.)183-84.

8 comments:

etc, etc said...

Linda Ferber, curator of the exhibit, has described Durand as “one of the earliest American painters to give up conventional compositional models based on European prototypes and to paint directly in response to what he actually saw in nature.”

That statement needs a great deal of qualification, otherwise she is quite mistaken.

Anonymous said...

Heavenly work.

Apparently, he never had trouble with bears. I wonder if painters in those days carried a firearm, just in case.

- mp

Anonymous said...

Are Asher B. Durand and John Durand the same person? How are they related? I am confused.

James Gurney said...

Anonymous, John Durand was his son.

Etc. My take on what Ferber is saying is that Durand moved from the Claudian conventions of Doughty to work with rather different compositional ideas that drew directly from his nature studies. He was one of the first Americans to paint vertical landscapes, or forest interiors. I'll explore his Truth to Nature ideals in upcoming posts.

Anonymous -- Durand would have liked your comment that his work was heavenly, because he consciously tried to suss out the ideal "other world" from the natural scene around him.

Anonymous said...

Cool.

- mp

Sajib OO said...

Theres almost a sense of surreal glow in the scene, did he paint it this way or is it a thin wash of some sort. Pardon my question as I belong to the age of photoshop glows.

vickiandrandyrossart said...

Come to Arkansas' Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and see Kindred Spirits in person! We are in the center of the us...easy access, with a convent airport...I can promise a delightful visit!

youngstudios said...

saw this in real life a while back (bentonville ak) one of my favorite in all the museum. one of my all time favorites! :)