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Durand began his career as an engraver but took up landscape painting in the mid-1830s under the influence of Thomas Cole. He later succeeded Cole as leader of the Hudson River School, America's first native group of landscape painters. Durand's canvas displays a compositional type favored by Cole in the more allegorical works. Relying also on the English picturesque tradition, Durand divided the scene into two zones. Despite its obvious emphasis on nature, the painting is a metaphor for the young nation - an illustration for the popular theme of immigrants confronting the New World. One the left is the primeval forest, often interpreted as both an untamed realm and a haven for spiritual contemplation by American philosophers and poets such as William Cullen Bryant. The right side reveals the unspoiled wilderness of the new Eden, the proverbial Promised Land, to the pioneers wending their way through the landscape.
gift of Lydia Millard