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Artist Biography

Asher B. Durand was born in Jefferson Village (now Maplewood), New Jersey to a farming family, the eighth of eleven children. His first artistic training was from his father, a watchmaker and silversmith, who instructed his son in his trade and in copperplate engraving. Durand worked as a successful engraver for several years. In 1831 he was commissioned to paint portraits for the National Portrait Gallery of Distinguished Americans, thus marking his professional entry into the world of painting. At this time his style evolved from a linear, neoclassic approach into a looser, more romantic style.

In 1837, another change in Durand’s oeuvre occurred after he accompanied friend and fellow painter Thomas Cole on a trip to Schroon Lake in the Adirondacks. The visit was fortuitous, as it led to Durand’s interest in landscape painting. In 1840, Durand traveled to Europe, particularly to see Rome. Although his initial purpose for the trip was to observe Europe’s artistic treasures, Durand’s journals reveal an overwhelming interest in the local landscape. Upon his return to the United States two years later, Durand was inspired by the scenery of his native surroundings and devoted all of his attention to landscape painting. Durand frequently summered in the Adirondacks, Catskills, and White Mountains, using these sketches and studies for formal oil paintings done in his studio.

Asher B. Durand was an active member of the art community. He was one of the fifteen founding members of the National Academy of Design and served as its president from 1845 to 1861. In 1829, he was a founding member of the Sketch Club (later called the Century Association). Durand published “Letters on Landscape Painting” in The Crayon in 1855, and advised artists to focus on their native landscape and to work directly from nature. His works are housed in prestigious public collections including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Shelburne Museum of Art, VT; the Heckscher Museum, Huntington, NY; the National Academy of Design, New York; the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and the Yale University Art Gallery.