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American Paintings and Sculpture
Artist: Asher Brown Durand, American, 1796–1886

A Sycamore Tree, Plaaterkill Clove (The Sycamore, Kaaterskill Clove)

ca. 1858

Oil on canvas

24 × 17 1/2 in. (61 × 44.5 cm)
Gift of Mrs. Frederic F. Durand
1929.152

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.

Geography: 
Made in Catskill, New York, United States
Status: 
On view
Culture: 
American
Period: 
19th century
Classification: 
Paintings
Bibliography: 

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

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 such records is ongoing.