Asher B. Durand. Oil on canvas, 1849, 44 x 36 in. Courtesy Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, AR.
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1. The figures are William Cullen Bryant (left) and Thomas Cole (right). Bryant holds a walking stick and hat (perhaps in respect to the deceased Cole), while Cole carries his sketchbook and a flute, referring to his love of art and music.
3. The painting is a composite landscape, comprised of Kaaterskill Clove, Kaaterskill Falls, and Fawn's Leap (a geographically impossible view), and is a tribute to Cole's favorite places in the Catskills.
4. Once a popular hiking destination, Fawn's Leap is located below Kaaterskill Falls as the Creek descends from the Catskill Mountains (see stereograph photograph of Fawn's Leap). The stories behind its name are various, but like most legends associated with waterfalls, they have to do with death. One legend records that a doe and her fawn running from a hunter attempted to leap across the rocks above the falls. The doe cleared the jump, but the fawn fell and perished. Another recounts that the fawn made it, but the hunter's dog plunged to its death. Such stories underscore the romance associated with such sites in the Catskill Mountains during Cole's time.
5. A pair of birds may be a metaphor for Bryant and Cole. The white bird soaring over the Clove suggests Cole's soul ascending to heaven.