Asher B. Durand. Oil on canvas, 1849, 44 x 36 in. Courtesy Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, AR.
My attention has often been attracted by the appearance of action and expression of surrounding objects, especially of trees. They spring from some resemblance to the human form. . . . Expose them to adversity and agitations, and a thousand original characters start forth, battling for existence or supremacy. On the mountain summit, exposed to the blasts, trees grasp the crags with their gnarled roots, and struggle with the elements with wild contortions. 1
Durand paid homage to his one-time mentor by evoking Catskill scenes associated with Cole. He also included some of the latter's most characteristic motifs, for example, the blasted tree trunk at lower left. Cole borrowed the potent image of broken tree limbs from Salvator Rosa and used it in innumerable paintings, such as Sunrise in the Catskills. Kindred Spirits, however, is marked by Durand's characteristic style, with its vertical orientation, hazy unified forms, and dusky color palette. In fact, Cole—in a private moment—once confided to a colleague in the 1840s that his former "student" in landscape painting had become an unwelcome rival. 2 . For Durand's part, he neglected to give Cole credit for schooling him in the principles of en plein air painting in his writings of the 1850s, 3 and as Daniel Peck has observed, Kindred Spirits may be a veiled assertion of Durand's artistic autonomy, as well as a memorial to a departed friend. 4
1. Thomas Cole, <cite>Gnarled Tree Trunk</cite>, pen and brown ink over graphite pencil on cream wove paper, c.1826. Detroit Institute of Arts. Founders Society Purchase, William H. Murphy Fund, 39.162. View in Virtual Gallery
2. Thomas Cole, <cite>Sunrise in the Catskills</cite>, oil on canvas, 1826, 25 ½ x 35 ½ in. National Gallery of Art. Gift of Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd in honor of the 50th anniversary of the National Gallery of Art, 1989.24.1. View in Virtual Gallery
3. Asher B. Durand, <cite>Kindred Spirits</cite>, oil on canvas, 1849, 44 x 36 in. Courtesy Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, AR.