Known as the “guiding philosophy of the second generation New York landscape painters,” Asher B. Durand began his professional journey by studying engraving under his father, a watchmaker and silversmith. He was born on August 21, 1796 in Jefferson Village, New Jersey. After apprenticing with Peter Maverick, they formed a partnership, allowing Durand to open a branch of their firm in New York. That’s when the magic began to happen.
New York allowed Durand to explore drawing and plaster casts at the American Academy of Fine Arts. Catching the attention of their president, John Trumbull, Durand was commissioned to engrave his painting The Declaration of Independence, gaining him status in the art world. He then founded the New-York Drawing Association (National Academy of Design) with artists including Samuel F. B. Morse, Thomas Cole, and William Sydney Mount.
Durand’s work would soon shift from engraving to painting. Marking the beginning of his love of landscapes as a subject, he provided nine landscapes to the annual National Academy of Design exhibition in 1837 after a trip to the Adirondacks with Cole. Soon after, Durnand embarked on a trip with John F. Kensett, John Casilear, and Thomas P. Rossiter to Europe, where he drew outdoors and studied the works of the old masters. To the oil sketches of british master John Constable, Durand saw it as “more of simple truth and naturalness than any English landscape I have ever before met with.”
Inspired by such naturalism, Durand frequented the hills along the Hudson River to sketch the scenery. He became the president of the National Academy of Design and pushed for the study of nature, depicting faith in light and atmosphere. Durand then published nine “Letters on Landscape Painting” in The Crayon, a New York art journal, laying out the core of the Hudson River School.
Durand eventually retired from painting in 1878 and passed away on September 17, 1886 in Maplewood, New Jersey.
Be sure to visit our new exhibition, The Poetry of Nature, Hudson River School Landscapes, and attend one of our Hudson River School events!
For more information on Asher B. Durand, visit: