Asher B. Durand (American, 1796–1886)
Oil on canvas
22 1/2 x 35 in. (57.2 x 88.9 cm)
Bequest of Maria DeWitt Jesup, from the collection of her husband, Morris K. Jesup, 1914 (15.30.60)
Commissioned by Morris K. Jesup, the powerful railroad banker and first president of the American Museum of Natural History, Summer Afternoon reflects the taste of many of Durand's wealthy patrons, less for the naturalistic American woodland scenes he perfected, than for classic prospects. This one directs the eyes downstream at left to the lowering sun, which is set off spatially by the three grand elms at right sheltering a few cows that accessorize the middle distance. More generic than any of the other American landscapes in the Jesup collection, which was bequeathed to the Metropolitan in 1914, Summer Afternoon is nonetheless consistent with those other Jesup "chestnuts" of Hudson River School art: John Kensett's Lake George, Sanford Gifford's Gorge in the Mountains (Kauterskill Clove), Thomas Cole's Mountain Ford, Frederic Church's Parthenon, and Durand's own Beeches.