DescriptionGEORGE HENRY DURRIE (American, 1820-1863) and Completed by GEORGE BOICE DURRIE (1842-1907) and/or JOHN DURRIE, JR. (1818-1898)
Winter Farmyard with Ox-Drawn Sledge, 1863-1866
Oil on canvas
18 x 24-1/4 inches (45.7 x 61.6 cm.)
THE JEAN AND GRAHAM DEVOE WILLIFORD CHARITABLE TRUST
Preserved on stretcher bar is a photograph of the Goupil & Co. artist supplier's stamp that appeared on the reverse of the original canvas, and has since been masked by the relining.
Estate of Artist;
Harry T. Peters, Sr., Collection;
Mr. and Mrs. Charles Webster Collection;
Sotheby's, New York City, Oct. 22, 1982, lot 45.
Martha Young Hutson, George Henry Durrie (1820-1863: American Winter Landscapist, Renowned through Currier and Ives, 1978, cat. no, 225, p. 225 under the listing: Paintings Begun by George Henry Durrie and Finished After His Death by His Brother or Son, 1863-1866.
The paintings by George Henry Durrie are treasured examples of mid-nineteenth century American art. He is best known for the serene beauty of his winter landscapes and nostalgic recording of New England farm life before the Civil War. One of Durrie's favorite themes is shown in Winter Farmyard with Ox-Drawn Sledge. There is a sunny, wintery day in a Connecticut farmyard and a driver saluting the farmer and his wife from his ox-drawn sledge on the road. Durrie's farmyards are always picture perfect with farmers busy at daily tasks and the farm animals enjoying the warmth of the sun on a cold day. There are many comparisons to this painting in Durrie's oeuvre, but a well known example is Returning to the Farm, 1861 (New York Historical Society), with its similarly fenced farmyard complete with house, barn, man chopping wood and driver riding on an ox-drawn sledge. That particular composition was repeated by Durrie on differed size canvases between 1861 and 1863. Like Winter Farmyard with Ox-Drawn Sledge, some of those works were completed in Durrie's studio after his death. (See M. Hutson, George Henry Durrie, 1977, p.157-158, figs. 162-165)
Durrie was born in New Haven, Connecticut, and lived there nearly his entire life. His artistic career was not a long one due to his death at forty-three. Durrie's studio was in his home and his estate listed over fifty-three work in various stages of completion. The family needed an income and gradually the work was sold. Fortunately, many of the incomplete works appear to have been touched up only enough so that collectors could acquire them. This effort was aided by Durrie's son, George Boice Durrie, and Durrie's brother, John Durrie, Jr., both of whom were hopeful artists. George Boice Durrie had served in the Civil War and returned in 1862 to New Haven to study with his father and become an artist. With his father's death a year later, George Boice remained in New Haven only until 1866. During those three years, he and his uncle completed many of Durrie's canvases and sometimes signed them with their names or even George Henry's name with a date between 1864 and 1866. George Boice married and left to become a physician. He brought his family to New York City, and was in medical practice there until 1894. John Durrie, Jr., outlived his brother by several decades, and is primarily remembered for his still life painting. His name appears in Durrie's early Record Book (Shelburne Museum) and on a few landscapes signed with his name and postdated after Durrie's death.
Winter Farmyard with Ox-Drawn Sledge was nearly complete in 1863 and left Durrie's studio unsigned. The condition is excellent. The canvas (relined) has a Goupil and Co., New York City stamp on the verso, which was a canvas source frequently used by Durrie. The painting has a fully realized Durrie composition including the animals and figures. Some areas are without the final touches of color details and highlights that would have completed the surface effect and add visual complexity. The shadowed foreground area of rocks and bushes, for example, would have received a richer surface treatment as well as the sacks on the sledge and the oxen pulling the sledge. Even the more completed tree trunk at the left would have had more color and snow touches. However, the strength of a Durrie composition is so strong that the surface appearance as a whole appears rich in color and complex in detail.
Durrie's usual painting process was to begin with the background and complete each area as he progressed to the foreground and added the final touches. Therefore, it is surprising that his son or brother needed to work on the farmhouse in the middle distance, but the red-orange color here is atypical for a Durrie farm structure. Durrie's color palette for his Connecticut farmhouses, barns and sheds was consistently in shades of either salmon pink, grey green or yellow. The red-orange color of the farmhouse here was chosen by the son or brother and has appeared in other paintings that were completed in Durrie's studio after his death in 1863.
These final compositions by Durrie were popular with many Victorian collectors and particularly in the New Haven area. Even in the 1860s, they were nostalgic reminders of a country life that was untouched by the problems of a Civil War and its aftermath. Durrie's artistic reputation was to disappear by the end of the nineteenth century, but then resurrected in the 1920s with the rise of a popular interest in Currier and Ives prints. Today his paintings are valued for their artistic importance in nineteenth century American art as well as beloved for their exquisite images of a rural New England heritage.
We are grateful to Martha Hutson-Saxton, Ph.D. for her scholarly generosity in preparing this catalogue note.
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