Sketch from Nature, ca. 1855
Asher B. Durand (American, 1796–1886)
Graphite on gray–green wove paper; 13 13/16 x 9 7/8 in. (35.1 x 25.1 cm)
Gift of Mrs. John Sylvester, 1936 (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 (95.13.1). 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.