A Sycamore Tree, Plaaterkill Clove (The Sycamore, Kaaterskill Clove) Artist: Asher Brown Durand (American, 1796–1886)

ca. 1858

American Paintings and Sculpture

On view, 2nd floor, American Art before 1900

Asher Brown Durand believed that in order to achieve the ideal, the artist must first perfect the real. His now-famous "Letters on Landscape Painting," published in the art journal the Crayon in 1855, instructed fellow artists to "paint and repaint until you are sure that the work represents the model—not that it merely resembles it." A Sycamore Tree, Plaaterkill Clove is a result of this artistic process. Durand painted it as a plein-air study, visually dissecting the forest interior, which would become the foreground in the final picture, The Catskills (1859; now in the collection of the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore). The object of Durand’s most intense scrutiny, a mossy tree trunk, interested him not for the purposes of scientific inquiry, but of spiritual enlightenment, for Durand, as the leading voice of transcendental thought among his contemporaries, thought nature held the key to revelation.


Oil on canvas


24 × 17 1/2 in. (61 × 44.5 cm)

Credit Line

Gift of Mrs. Frederic F. Durand

Accession Number



19th century


Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of records is ongoing.

  • Linda S. Ferber, Kindred Spirits, exh. cat. (New York: Brooklyn Museum of Art, 2007), 191, fig. 78
Object copyright
Additional information

Object/Work type

landscapes (representations)


Signed l.r. "A.B. Durand"

Technical metadata and APIs


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