Asher Brown Durand/ American 1796 - 1886
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 and later entered into a partnership with the owner of the firm, who asked him to run the firm's New York branch. He engraved the 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.
One of the leaders of 19th-century landscape painting in America, Asher B. Durand shared with his fellow Hudson River artists a love of nature and a sense of pride in the new country's natural resources. His early works are typical in style to those of Thomas Cole and Frederic Church: large canvases that showcase panoramic views of the American landscape. Durand also excelled, however, at closely-observed studies of native flora and fauna. Trained as an engraver, the artist relished the almost scientific precision of these smaller-scale works. In Rocky Cliff, Durand trades the sky and misty mountain backgrounds of traditional Hudson River scenes for a close-up view of a wild lichen-covered outcropping topped by gnarled, twisted trees. The artist, however, communicates his wonder at the beauty and natural diversity of the scene just as easily with this intimate work as he had with earlier landscapes on a grander scale.