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Asher B. Durand - Landscape with Rocks

Asher B. Durand (1796-1886), American
Landscape with Rocks, 1859
OIL ON CANVAS, 20½ x 15 ½ inches
Gift of Horace Fairbanks

Asher B. Durand was a pillar of American art during the mid-nineteenth century. His influence upon the direction of American landscape painting is difficult to overestimate, as he became its leader after the early death of Thomas Cole in 1848, Durand codified the principles of landscape painting for the second generation of painters of the Hudson River School in a series of letters published in the influential journal The Crayon in 1855. Land­scape with Rocks is one of the earliest paintings in the Athenaeum's collection. Its inclusion shows Fairbanks' awareness of the history of Amer­ican landscape painting before the Civil War.

Landscape with Rocks represents one of the two main subjects for which Durand became best known: the forest interior and the expansive vista. The relatively loose paint handling in Landscape with Rocks has suggested to scholar David Lawall that the composition is one of the artist's "studies from nature," of which Durand painted a consider­able number during the 1850s. The "studies" are characterized by an immediate response to a site, rather than a reconstituted studio composition cre­ated after the fact. Lawall has also written that the scene shown here likely depicts the landscape around Geneseo, New York, near Rochester.