Michael J. Metcalf
He is a fine painter, very accurate and technical. His father was a watchmaker and a silversmith and I think this tradition of working with tiny things has greatly influenced Durand. Furthermore, he was a famous engraver in his youth(from 1812 to 1817) helping the starts of the New York Drawing Association and engraving Declaration of Independence for John Trumbull. This precision work, similar to a miniaturist of the Middle Ages, is evident in his manner of painting nature: leaf by leaf, no detail escapes.
Asher Brown Durand was a successful painter. This will be for something. He became the president (from 1845 to 1862) of the National Academy of Design in New York and for the eighth children of a worker who had born in Maplewood, it was a triumph. In fact, he represents the American spirit, always so close to nature and lover of simplicity. Two trees and a river serves as a subject and this contrasts with the issues of European painters: wild nature which dominates men, that’s what he likes.
When I saw a Durand’s picture, I feel the love of nature that he got when he painted. That’s what I appreciate most of his paintings. It is a religious experience because Durand felt that nature was God’s work.
In 2007, the Brooklyn Museum exhibited sixty of Durand’s works . The exhibition was titled “Kindred Spirits: Asher B. Durand and the American Landscape”. I was there and it was a holly experience.
This nineteenth-century painter (1796-1886) represents the desires of a new nation: the United States. He flees for European myths to look for new ones: Catskills, White Mountains, the Hudson river… or even the Indian tradition: “the Indian Vespers” (1847-48).
I don’t care the prices reached for his paintings at auction ($35million for Kindred Spirits), I care for an artist looking in his interior and roots for something new.
Video with paintings of Asher Brown Durand: