River Scene, 1854
Asher B. Durand (American, 1796–1886)
Oil on canvas; 24 x 34 1/2 in. (61 x 86.7 cm)
Bequest of Mary Starr Van Winkle, 1970 (1970.58)
In works such as the Museum's In the Woods (95.13.1), Durand proved himself the American paragon of the "natural landscape painter" promoted by his English hero, John Constable. Yet throughout his career and increasingly as he aged, Durand painted scenes in a far more synthetic and conventional manner. River Scene, painted the year before In the Woods, falls into that category. It reflects Golden Age Dutch masters such as Aelbert Cuyp, whose work Durand saw in Holland in 1840 and 1841, as well as possibly French Barbizon artists such as Constant Troyon, whose paintings were also available to him then in Europe as well as, possibly, in one or two American collections by mid-century. The French influence is suggested by the animate poses of the cows, which tend to be statuesque in Dutch painting. Nonetheless, the setting is identifiably American, revealing in the background what are probably the Highlands of the Hudson River near West Point.