A few days ago (February 4th), I gave you a landscape painting by the American (although born in England) artist Thomas Cole. Today, My Daily Art Display, relates to three men, a poet and two artists, both of the Hudson River School of painting, one of whom, Thomas Cole, was the founder. Today’s work of art is not a painting by Thomas Cole but one in which he is depicted.
The Hudson River School paintings are among America’s most admired and well-loved artworks. Such artists as Thomas Cole, Frederic Church, and Albert Bierstadt left a powerful legacy to American art, embodying in their epic works the reverence for nature and the national idealism that prevailed during the middle of the 19th century. The Hudson River School artists shared an awe of the magnificence of nature as well as a belief that the untamed American scenery reflected the national character. Members of the school shared their iconography and responded to one another’s paintings. Their works of art reflected nineteenth-century American cultural, intellectual, and social backgrounds. It is interesting to study paintings by this group of artists and discover how they represented the landscape and look at their depictions of weather, light, and season.
Thomas Cole died an untimely death from pneumonia in 1848 at the age of forty-seven and the poet and his good friend William Cullen Bryant gave a eulogy of Cole which touched the hearts of many, including the wealthy New York dry-goods merchant and art collector Jonathan Sturgess. In appreciation of Bryant’s tribute, he commissioned the painter Asher Durand to capture the friendship of Cole and Bryant and incorporate it into an America landscape, similar to one which often featured in one of Cole’s paintings.
Asher Brown Durand was also an American painter of the Hudson River School. He was born in Jefferson Village, now known as Maplewood, New Jersey in 1796. His father was a watchmaker and silversmith. He came from a large family being the eighth of eleven children. Initially he followed in his father’s footsteps and at the age of sixteen was apprenticed as an engraver. He was very successful in his career and his reputation as an engraver was enhanced when he was commissioned to engrave John Trumbull’s painting The Declaration of Independence.
During the late 1820’s and the early 1830’s Durand’s interest moved away from engraving to oil painting. In 1837 he and Thomas Cole went on a sketching expedition to Schroon Lake in the Adirondacks and this enforced his love of landscape art. He spent many summers sketching in the Catskills and the White Mountains of New Hampshire during which time he drew hundreds of sketches and drawings.
The commission from Jonathan Sturgess in 1849 set the task for Durand to create a painting which would show Cole and his poet friend Bryant as “kindred spirits” which was inspired by John Keats’ “Sonnet to Solitude” which celebrates how aspects of nature enhance our lives, and ends:
Yet the sweet converse of an innocent mind,
Those words are images of thoughts refin’d,
Is my soul’s a pleasure; and sure it must be
Almost the highest bliss of human-kind,
When to thy haunts two kindred spirits flee.
Sturgess also wanted the backdrop of this painting to be typical of Thomas Cole’s landscapes.
My Daily Art Display today is Kindred Spirits painted in 1849 by Asher Durand and was considered to be one of the best works of the Hudson River School. It shows Cole and Bryant engulfed by the wilderness of the Catskill Mountains of New York state. As was the case in many of the paintings of the Hudson River school this painting was a tribute to American nature and to the two men who had celebrated its unique exquisiteness. It was an idealized composition which brought together scenes from several sites around that area and fashioned them into one panorama. So the scene itself was not real in itself but brought together all that was best in the Catskill Mountain area.
The painting, once completed, was given to the New York Public library by Bryant’s daughter Julie where it remained until it was sold in a blind auction at Sotheby’s in 2005 to a private collector, Alice Walton, the Walmart heiress for $35 million, which at the time was a record amount for a painting by an American Artist.
And finally for those of you who took a look at My Daily Art Display on February 2nd when I was showcasing La Lecture by Pablo Picasso. I mentioned it was up for sale with a guide price of between £12million and £18million pounds. Last night at Sotheby’s, London it sold for £25,241,250. Anybody fancy taking up art as a hobby ?