By Mary Lyn Sullivan
Asher Durand was born on August 21, 1796 in Jefferson Village, New Jersey (now known as Maplewood, New Jersey). He was the eighth of eleven children, and his father was a watchmaker and silversmith. As a young adult, Durand attended the American Academy of Fine Arts and served an engraving apprenticeship under Peter Maverick in Newark, New Jersey. This apprenticeship led to a brief partnership that ended after Durand became known as a renowned engraver with the success of his engraving of John Trumbull's painting "The Declaration of Independence" in 1823. Durand went on to found the New York Drawing Association in 1825 which became the National Academy of Design a year later. Asher Durand also worked with his brother Cyrus Durand and Charles C. Wright in the production of bank notes during this time.
In 1832, Durand ended his engraving business to work for a short time as a portrait painter of presidents and other political leaders. However, in 1837, a sketching expedition to the Adirondacks with friend, mentor, and fellow artist Thomas Cole led Durand to change his focus to landscape painting. Thomas Cole and the economic Panic of 1837 highly influenced Durand to concentrate on landscape painting. From there, Durand started taking more and more trips to the Catskill, Adirondack, and White Mountains to make drawings and oil sketches that he later turned into finished paintings. He also made frequent trips to Europe to study the old masters and to sketch more landscapes.
In 1845, Durand was chosen as the second President of the National Academy of Design; a position that he held until 1861. During his time as President, he founded the Century Association and published his influential "Letters on Landscape Painting" in the Crayon, a well-known art periodical. Durand retired from the Hudson River School art movement in 1869 and stopped painting in 1878. He died in his hometown of Maplewood, New Jersey on September 17, 1886.