This work, featuring meticulously rendered beech and basswood trees, was painted for the New York collector Abraham M. Cozzens, then a member of the executive committee of the American Art-Union. The painting illustrates a new trend in the work of the Hudson River School, with its diminished emphasis on sublime drama and increased interest in naturalism and in the creation of a tranquil mood. Durand was influenced by the work of the English landscape painter John Constable, whose vertical formats and truth to nature he absorbed while visiting England in 1840. "The Beeches" resembles Constable's "The Cornfield" (National Gallery, London). This work is also the first one Durand based on a plein-air oil sketch, a technique the artist increasingly relied upon to reproduce accurately conditions of light and shade.
Signature: [at lower left]: A.B. DURAND / 1845
Marking: [canvas stamp]: Theodore Kelley, 33 1 /2 Wooster Street
Abraham M. Cozzens, New York, 1845–died 1868; (sale, Leavitt, Strebeigh & Company, New York, May 22, 1868, no. 29, as "The Beeches--Sunset"); Morris K. Jesup, New York, 1868–died 1908; Maria DeWitt Jesup, New York, 1908–died 1914