Kindred Spirits, 1849
Asher B. Durand (American, 1796–1886)
Oil on canvas
Courtesy Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas (L.2008.21)
Kindred Spirits is the quintessential Hudson River School landscape. Its subjects are Thomas Cole (with portfolio), the founding father of the school, and William Cullen Bryant, the well-known nature poet and editor. The men stand on a ledge in one of the cloves, or gorges, of the Catskill Mountains, the source of the landscapes that made Cole famous and continued to inspire his followers. Durand was Cole's earliest disciple and a close friend of Bryant, and executed this picture at the request of Jonathan Sturges, a patron of both artists. Sturges gave the painting to Bryant in honor of the eulogy the poet delivered at the memorial service for Cole, who died in February 1848. Invoking a phrase from John Keats's seventh sonnet, "O Solitude," Sturges asked Durand to portray Cole and Bryant together as "kindred spirits" in the landscape. Accordingly, Durand adjusted his fastidious approach to natural forms, such as the rocky ledge and overhanging tree limbs, to suggest Keats's poetic references to "nature's observatory" and "boughs pavillion'd." Aside from its historical significance, the painting embodies the marriage of naturalism and idealization central to Hudson River School aesthetics.