Saturday, July 02, 2011


Every year we change the label of our wine. This year we chose KINDRED SPIRITS by Asher Brown Durand.

Kindred Spirits depicts the previously deceased painter Thomas Cole and his friend poet William Cullen Bryant in the Catskill Mountains. The landscape, which combines geographical features like Fawns Leap in Kaaterksill Clove and a minuscule depiction of Kaaterskill Falls, is not a literal record of a particular site but an idealized memory of Thomas Cole's discovery of the region more than twenty years prior to the canvas's execution. The painting is currently held in the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Fort Worth, Texas.

The painting was commissioned by New York art collector Jonathan Sturges as a gift to Bryant in appreciation of his eulogy of Coles. Its title was inspired by John Keats' "Sonnet to Solitude". Bryant's daughter Julia donated the painting to the New York Public Library in 1904. In 2005, it was sold at auction for $35 million, a record for a painting by an American artist.

Especially owing to the fact that Thomas Coles, who was a resident of Catskill, was one of the subjects of this painting, and that it depicts Katerskill Falls, another local attraction, we felt there was no better paining we could choose. The painting is one of the most famous works of art of the Hudson River School of painting, an it location and subjects made it all the more personal for us at Hudson-Chatham. And the Hudson River Valley Red has been our most popular wine, with last year's label winning the People's Choice award for Best Label at the Hudson Valley Wine magazine label competition.

Asher Brown Durand (August 21, 1796 – September 17, 1886) was an American painter of the Hudson River School. Durand was born in and eventually died in Maplewood, New Jersey (then called Jefferson Village), the eighth of eleven children; his father was a watchmaker and a silversmith.

Durand was apprenticed to an engraver from 1812 to 1817, later entering into a partnership the owner of the firm, who asked him to run the firm's New York branch. He engraved Declaration of Independence for John Trumbull in 1823, which established Durand's reputation as one of the country's finest engravers. Durand helped organize the New York Drawing Association in 1825, which would become the National Academy of Design; he would serve the organization as president from 1845 to 1861.

His interest shifted from engraving to oil painting around 1830 with the encouragement of his patron, Luman Reed. In 1837, he accompanied his friend Thomas Cole on a sketching expedition to Schroon Lake in the Adirondacks and soon after he began to concentrate on landscape painting. He spent summers sketching in the Catskills, Adirondacks, and the White Mountains of New Hampshire, making hundreds of drawings and oil sketches that were later incorporated into finished academy pieces which helped to define the Hudson River School.

Durand is particularly remembered for his detailed portrayals of trees, rocks, and foliage. He was an advocate for drawing directly from nature with as much realism as possible. Durand wrote, "Let [the artist] scrupulously accept whatever [nature] presents him until he shall, in a degree, have become intimate with her infinity...never let him profane her sacredness by a willful departure from truth."

Like other Hudson River School artists, Durand also believed that nature was an ineffable manifestation of God. He expressed this sentiment and his general views on art in his "Letters on Landscape Painting" in The Crayon, a mid-19th century New York art periodical. Wrote Durand, "[T]he true province of Landscape Art is the representation of the work of God in the visible creation..."

Durand is noted for his 1849 painting Kindred Spirits which shows fellow Hudson River School artist Thomas Cole and poet William Cullen Bryant in a Catskills landscape. This was painted as a tribute to Cole upon his death in 1848. The painting, donated by Bryant's daughter Julia to the New York Public Library in 1904, was sold by the library through Sotheby's at an auction in May 2005 to Alice Walton for a purported $35 million. The sale was conducted as a sealed, first bid auction, so the actual sales price is not known. At $35 million, however, it would be a record price paid for an American painting at the time.

Another of Durand's painting is his 1853 Progress, commissioned by a railroad executive. The landscape depicts America's progress, from a state of nature (on the left, where Native Americans look on), towards the right, where there are roads, telegraph wires, a canal, warehouses, railroads, and steamboats.

In 2007, the Brooklyn Museum exhibited nearly sixty of Durand's works in the first monographic exhibition devoted to the painter in more than thirty-five years. The show, entitled "Kindred Spirits: Asher B. Durand and the American Landscape," was on view from March 30 to July 29, 2007.


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