Landscape with Covered Wagon

Asher Brown Durand (American, 1796-1886)

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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.

The Pioneer Themes of Asher B. Durand

Asher Brown Durand was born in Maplewood, New Jersey (known then as Jefferson Village). He was apprenticed to an engraver, eventually becoming part owner of the firm. He engraved Declaration of Independence for John Trumbull in 1823, which established Durand’s reputation as a printmaker. Durand was a founding member of the National Academy of Design. His interest in oil painting began around 1830 with the encouragement of his patron, Luman Reed. In 1837, Durand accompanied his friend and colleague Thomas Cole on a sketching expedition to Schroon Lake in the Adirondacks, which increased his interest in becoming a landscape painter. He spent summers sketching in the Catskills, Adirondacks, and the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Durand was a strong advocate for drawing directly from nature in a truthful manner. He became the leader of the Hudson River School after the death of its founder Thomas Cole.

Landscape with Covered Wagon displays a compositional type favored by Thomas Cole in his more allegorical works. Despite its obvious emphasis on nature, the painting is a metaphor for the young nation, illustrating the popular theme of immigrants confronting the New World. On the left is the primeval forest, often interpreted as both an untamed realm and a haven for contemplation by American philosophers and poets such as William Cullen Bryant. The right side shows the New Eden, the proverbial Promised Land, the place for future pioneer settlement.

Durand, John. The Life and Times of Asher B. Durand. Hensonville, NY: Black Dome Press Corporation, 2006.

Ferber, Linda. Kindred Spirits: Asher B. Durand and the American Landscape. South Humberside, England: D. Giles, Ltd., 2007.

gift of Lydia Millard

Object Information

artist
Asher Brown Durand (American, 1796-1886)
creation date
1847
materials
oil on canvas
dimensions
26-1/2 x 36 in.
38-1/4 x 45-1/4 in/ (framed)
accession number
12.17
credit line
Gift of Mrs. Lydia G. Millard
copyright
Public Domain
collection
American Painting and Sculpture to 1945

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