Kindred Spirits – Asher Durand

October 19, 2010

Kindred Spirits (1849) is a painting by the Hudson River School painter Asher Durand. It depicts the previously deceased painter Thomas Cole and his friend poet William Cullen Bryant in the Catskill Mountains.

Kindred Spirits is regarded as a defining work of the Hudson River School. Although painted in the detailed and realistic style that Durand championed for the American landscape school, the painting’s idealized composition brings together several sites, including the Clove of the Catskills and Kaaterskill Falls, in a way that is not geographically possible. This shows that the main purpose of the painting was intended to pay tribute to American nature and to the two men who had celebrated its special beauties together. Durand’s Kindred Spirits paid homage first and foremost to Cole’s ability as a painter of American wild scenery.

By looking at the painting it becomes evident that Durands intention was to remember these men by showing the environment they enjoyed to be in most, nature at its finest. Surrounded by blossoming plants and sunshine making everything appear bright and enjoyable.

The painting was commissioned by New York art collector Jonathan Sturges as a gift to Bryant in appreciation of his eulogy of Coles. Its title was inspired by John Keats’ “Sonnet to Solitude”. Bryant’s daughter Julia donated the painting to the New York Public Library in 1904. In 2005, it was sold at auction to Walmart heiress Alice Walton for $35 million, a record for a painting by an American artist.

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