Today's Hours
Museum: Closed
Gardens: 7:00 AM - 5:30 PM
Today's Hours
Museum: Closed
Gardens: 7:00 AM - 5:30 PM
Durand, Asher B.
Collection: American Collection
Specialties: Drawings, Paintings
After Thomas Cole's death, his role as mentor to younger members of the
Hudson River School of landscape art fell to Asher Durand. Born in New
Jersey in 1796, Durand was five years older than Cole and had already been
earning a living as an engraver and painter before Cole's arrival in
America . However, once he had seen what Cole was attempting and
frequently accomplishing in his work, he became a convert to the same
goals. Durand was associated with Cole in the public mind as well, the two
considered by the mid-point of the 19 th century to be the two greatest
American landscape painters. In 1847, the New York Evening Post declared:

It is now generally conceded, we believe, that Cole and Durand are the
two most prominent landscape painters in this country. They are indeed
artists of superior ability . . . they are both highly accomplished, and
both possessed of the most refined and elevated feeling.

Durand's close association with both Cole and the poet William Jennings
Bryant, whose poems he frequently interpreted in his paintings, made it
natural to step into Cole's role as leader after Cole's untimely death. He
began by paying tribute to his two friends in a painting called "Kindred
Spirits", which depicted Bryant and Cole together on a rocky ledge
overlooking the Catskills, viewing with awe an America they had not only
discovered, but to some extent, invented.

Like Cole, Durand urged the younger artists to paint, not unvarnished
reality, but the greater reality that represented the sublime. In a
treatise on painting, he wrote:

. . . that picture is ideal whose component parts are representative of
the utmost perfection of Nature, whether with regard to beauty or other
considerations of fitness . . . In order to compose the ideal picture,
then, the artist must . . . be able to gather from individuals the
collective idea . . . when you shall have learned all that characterizes
oak as oak, you will be prepared to apply those characteristics according
to the requirements of ideal beauty, to the production of the ideal oak.

These concepts became integral to the development of younger American
landscape artists. In his role as president of the National Academy of
Design from 1845 to 1861 and through the remainder of his artistic career,
Durand would influence artists such as Frederic Church, Jasper Cropsey,
Thomas Moran, and Albert Bierstadt. Thanks to his leadership as well as
Cole's innovation, the first great American school of art was founded and
the vision of America as the New Eden preserved in all its visual
magnificence for generations to come.

Everl Adair, Director of Research and Rare Collections