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Asher Brown Durand (1796-1886)
Asher Brown Durand (1796-1886)

View in the Catskills

Asher Brown Durand (1796-1886)
Durand, Asher Brown
View in the Catskills
signed and dated 'A.B. Durand 1844' (lower left)
oil on canvas
38.1/8 x 54 in. (96.8 x 137.7 cm.)
American Art-Union, New York.
R.H. Messenger, New York.
Charles D. White, New York, 1936.
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts, gift from the above.
C.C. Cunningham, "American Landscapes," in MFA Bulletin, XXXVI, no. 215, 1938, p. 39, illustrated (erroneously dated 1847)
American Paintings in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Vols. I and II, Boston, Massachusetts, 1969, pp. 98, 196, illustrated
D.B. Lawall, Asher B. Durand, New York, 1978, no. 93, p. 47, illustrated
New York, National Academy of Design, Annual Exhibition, 1845, no. 175
New York, American Art-Union, 1845, no. 28
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Carnegie Institute of Art, Century of American Landscape, 1939
New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, The Hudson River School and the Early American Landscape Tradition, April-May 1945, no. 102, p. 44, illustrated (This exhibition also traveled to Chicago, Illinois, The Art Institute of Chicago, February-March 1945)
Montclair, New Jersey, Montclair Art Mueseum, A.B. Durand, 1796-1886, October-November 1971, no. 48, p. 87, illustrated
Richmond, Virginia, Virginia Museum of Art, Experts' Choice: 1,000 Years of the Art Trade, April-June 1983, p. 162, illustrated

Lot Essay

Among American painters of the late nineteenth century, Asher B. Durand created poetic, light-filled compositions that express a unique vision of the American landscape. Painting serene compositions such as View in the Catskills, Durand, along with his friend and fellow-painter Thomas Cole, formed what would become the foundations of a national school of landscape painting.

As soon as Durand began exhibiting his paintings, American critics acknowledged the quality of the artist's compositions and his place in the development of a national style. In 1847 a critic for the New York Evening Post compared Cole and Durand, writing, "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, and will undoubtedly hereafter be looked upon as the founders of two American schools. Each one is distinguished for peculiar excellencies. . . Durand paints the better study from nature so far as individuality is concerned, but Cole produces with greater truth the uncommon effects observable in nature. . . Cole has a passion for the wild and tempestuous; Durand is a lover of the cultivated country when glowing in mellow sunlight."

Oswaldo R. Roque has noted, "The effect of the success of Durand's style was to push American landscape painting further toward nature and away from man. His broader attitude to what was picture-worthy in nature and his assertion that attentiveness to nature's details was the only way of arriving at the truth were of vast import. His approach, of course, was productive of a realism that in subsequent years was taken to be his major contribution to the Hudson River School." (American Paradise: The World of the Hudson River School, New York, 1987, p. 37)

View in the Catskills exemplifies Durand's approach to creating a national school of landscape painting. The composition is filled with a warm, rich light that envelops the cultivated countryside. Cattle graze peacefully in an open field as a gentle stream meanders through the composition. Dark clouds recede beyond the edges of the composition into the upper right sky and are replaced in the upper left by a reassuring glow of warm sunlight. Nestled at the foot of the Catskills in the far distance is a small town, its white church steeple suggesting the harmonious equilibrium between civilized man and the wilds of nature, and the peace and plenty that comes from a free and democratic nation.

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