Traces of the Hand

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Traces of the Hand: Master Drawings from the Collection of Frederick and Lucy S. Herman

Landscape and Seascape

Asher Brown Durand
American, 1796–1886
Croton on the Hudson, 1868
Pen and ink
10 1/4 x 14 1/8 in, 26.04 x 35.88 cm (sheet)
Inscription: (recto) lower right in pen: "Croton on the Hudson/Sept 22, "68"; signature: "A.B. Durand"
Provenance: Acquired from the Auslew Gallery, Norfolk, 1966
Gift of The Frederick and Lucy S. Herman Foundation, 2006.11.18

Asher Brown Durand’s drawing depicts a small peninsula jutting off Croton Point near Croton-on-Hudson, a village in Westchester County, New York. Durand’s drawn studies often depict specific locations, rendered during summer trips in the Hudson River Valley and New England.1 Durand made this drawing on September 22nd, 1868, probably during his 1868 sketching trip, which he took from July to September, traveling in the Adirondacks in Keene, New York and at Lake George.2 Katelyn Crawford identified the precise location from Julie Hart Beer’s painting of the same scene dated 1869, just a year later.3

Although no other pen drawings by Durand are published, the signature and inscription are consistent with the artist’s numerous pencil sketches made throughout his career. Durand’s meticulous technique in this drawing no doubt derived from skills he developed as one of America’s premier engravers, prior to his becoming a painter in the 1830s, best known as the founder and leader of the Hudson River School.4 By 1868, Durand worked in a developed style and defined set of subjects, drawing expressive trees in pencil, pressing heavily to create dense masses of foliage and using soft, slanted strokes to suggest changes in the leaves.5 The Herman drawing, in contrast, showcases skills Durand acquired as an engraver, using delicate hatching and cross-hatching to render light and shadow and short, abrupt lines to define the foliage.

Drawing occupied an important place in Durand’s creative process, which he described in nine "Letters on Landscape Painting," published in 1855 in The Crayon. Addressed to young artists, these letters define his method for painting culled from the working methods of Thomas Cole, John Constable, and John Ruskin.6 In his second letter Durand emphasized drawing as the basis of landscape painting, encouraging young artists to "take pencil and paper, not the palette and brushes, and draw with scrupulous fidelity the outlines or contour of such objects as you shall select…slovenly and imperfect drawing finds but a miserable compensation in the palpable efforts to disguise and atone for it, by the blandishments of color and effect."7 The Herman drawing, like Durand’s many pencil studies, shows his allegiance in practice to these principles.

Andy Mullan
Katelyn Crawford
Jayna McGehee

 

1. Barbara Gallati, "Asher B. Durand," in John K. Howat, ed., American Paradise: The World of the Hudson River School, New York, 1987, 107–108.

2. Linda Ferber, Kindred Spirits: Asher B. Durand and the American Landscape, New York: Brooklyn Museum of Art, 2007, 221.

3. With Hawthorne Fine Art, New York, NY, in 2009.

4. Barbara Gallati, An Engraver's and a Farmer's Art, Yonkers, NY: The Hudson River Museum, 1983, 62–63.

5. Jo Miller, Drawings of the Hudson River School, 1825–1875, New York: Brooklyn Museum of Art, 1969, 60.

6. Eleanor Jones Harvey, The Painted Sketch: American Impressions from Nature, 1830–1880, Dallas Museum of Art, 1998, 17.

7. Durand, "Letters on Landscape Painting!!," The Crayon, 10 January 1855; as quoted in Harvey, Painted Sketch, 37.

 

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