ASHER BROWN DURAND1796-1886
Known as the “Father of American Landscape Painting,” Asher Brown Durand was the major exponent of the Hudson River School style of painting. Born in Jefferson Village (now Maplewood), New Jersey in 1796, Durand studied engraving with his father, a watchmaker and silversmith. At age sixteen he went to Newark, where he apprenticed to engraver Peter Maverick; five years later they formed a partnership, opening a branch of the company in New York City. Around 1818 Durand began informal study at the American Academy of Fine Arts. He became a successful engraver, producing bank notes, book illustrations, portraits, and copies after other artists’ works, including an engraving completed in 1823 of Trumbull’s 1787 painting, “The Declaration of Independence.”
In the 1820s and 1830s Durand owned a series of printmaking firms and was active as a teacher and in New York cultural circles. Several of his engraving pupils, including J.F. Kensett, became noted artists. Durand was one of the founding members of the New York Drawing Association, which in 1826 became the National Academy of Design, and served as its president from 1845 to 1861. He was a co-founder of the New York Sketch Club and the Century Association, and was also involved with other artist groups, such as James Fenimore Cooper’s Bread and Cheese Club. By 1835 Durand had given up his engraving business to devote himself to painting. He supported this transition by taking portrait commissions, and completing a series of paintings of the United States Presidents. In 1837 he accompanied Thomas Cole on a sketching trip to the Schroon Lake region in the Adirondack Mountains of New York, and the following year he contributed nine landscapes to the annual National Academy of Design exhibition. He continued to paint landscapes, making more sketching trips to the Adirondacks, Catskills, and White Mountains, and making a painting tour of Europe to study the works of the Old Masters. After the death of Thomas Cole in 1848, Asher Durand became the pre-eminent Hudson River painter. In his “Letters on Landscape Painting” published in the New York art journal The Crayon in 1855, Durand codified the theories and practices of the Hudson River School. He advised American painters to work directly from nature and to give precedence to New World subjects over European ones. In April 1869 he moved to a new house and studio built on family property in Jefferson Village, where he remained for the rest of his life. He died on September 17, 1886.