Sketch from Nature

Artist: Asher Brown Durand (American, Jefferson, New Jersey 1796–1886 Maplewood, New Jersey)

Date: ca. 1855

Medium: Graphite on gray-green wove paper

Dimensions: 13 13/16 x 9 7/8 in. (35.1 x 25.1 cm)

Classification: Drawings

Credit Line: Gift of Mrs. John Sylvester, 1936

Accession Number: 36.63.1


Some of Durand's most admired works as a landscape painter are his vivid plein-air oil sketches, used to fashion such masterpieces as the Museum's In the Woods. However, those colored images executed outdoors are vastly outnumbered by sheets and sheets of pencil studies, such as this one, that underlay Durand's talent for modeling with brush and pigment. Indeed, in his 1855 "Letters on Landscape Painting," the artist stressed the indispensability of drawing "till you are sure of your hand, and not only that,—till you shall have learned by heart the characteristic forms of all objects . . . no matter how long it takes." His assured study here derives interest partly from his shrewd selection of contorted forms of tree trunk, root, limb, and rocky ground and his sensitive if not laborious attention to their texture and organic harmony.