Description

    George Henry Durrie (American, 1820-1863)
    Winter in the Country, A Cold Morning, circa 1863
    Oil on canvas
    26 x 36 inches (66.0 x 91.4 cm)


    PROVENANCE:
    Private collection, Massachusetts;
    A New England institution, gift from the above, 1940;
    Richard York Gallery, New York, 1989;
    The Honorable Paul H. Buchanan, Jr., acquired from the above, 1989;
    Heritage Auctions, Dallas, June 10, 2009, lot 77012;
    Acquired by the present owner from the above.



    George Henry Durrie, a lifelong resident of New Haven, Connecticut, is best-known today for winter scenes romanticizing cozy seasonal pleasures in the country, although he also painted summer landscapes, portraits, still lifes and a few narratives. Largely self-taught, he worked intermittently with the New Haven portrait painter and engraver Nathaniel Jocelyn (1796-1881) from 1839 to 1841. In the early 1840s, he traveled quite extensively in search of portrait work, which was his first specialty. Around the middle of the decade, however, intensely inspired by the work of Thomas Cole, Durrie began concentrating instead upon painting the Connecticut landscape, both around New Haven and Hartford. Although he shared many interests with the Hudson River painters Durrie placed more emphasis on genre elements, concentrating heavily on detail and domestic contentment as opposed to the more theatrical grandeur of someone like Frederic Church. This can be seen in the present work, and in his Returning to the Farm of 1861, a well-known painting from the same period in the New York Historical Society collection, which also depicts a farmer bringing home a sled-load of logs. In both paintings, the snow covered ground and thick cloud cover provide the dominant grayish tonality, against which bare trees and farmyard details stand out insistently. A heavy atmosphere obscures the clarity of distant hills, though as a rule, his winter scenes are never bleak but rather filled with light and activity, as seen in the present painting. Issued in the 1860s as Currier and Ives prints, ten of Durrie's winter scenes found particularly widespread popularity and inspired imitation.

    Although this painting is undated, its attribution to George Henry Durrie has been fully endorsed by Durrie expert, Dr. Martha Hutson-Saxton, who had the opportunity to examine it firsthand in 1989 when it emerged on the art market. She noted in private correspondence: "I was very impressed with the painting, Winter in the Country, A Cold Morning by George Henry Durrie (1820-1863). This version with the ox sledge, 26 x 36 inches, is an exceptionally fine work. Durrie was developing this composition at the end of his life in 1863. The painting was most likely in his studio at his death, which would explain the lack of signature. At age forty-three, Durrie was painting at the height of his stylistic development. Winter in the Country, A Cold Morning is one of his best contributions to native winter landscape painting in the nineteenth century."

    In recent correspondence with Heritage, Dr. Hutson-Saxton noted that Durrie regularly produced versions of the compositions he particularly liked or found to be commercially successful, and that Winter in the Country, A Cold Morning was one of these. She noted that this composition in this 26" by 36" canvas size first appeared in 1861 with a man walking up the road instead of the ox sledge (see M.Y. Hutson, George Henry Durrie (1820-1863). American Winter Landscapist: Renowned Through Currier and Ives, 1978, fig. 185, p. 173, as with Hirschl and Adler Galleries, New York). That painting was lithographed by Currier and Ives in 1864 (see Hutson, fig. 183). Durrie proceeded to paint the composition several times in this size between 1861 and 1863, and in smaller versions as well - some signed and some unsigned. In all of them Durrie included the bright yellow house with green shutters, the gray barns and outbuildings, a smattering of chickens, and the towering bare tree with its multiple highlights and its branches flecked with snow against a patchy dark-bright sky. That trademark motif is painted with tremendous confidence - and obvious relish - in the present work.

    We are grateful to Dr. Martha Hutson-Saxton for her scholarly generosity and for her permission to quote from her 1989 correspondence in this catalogue note.




    Condition Report*:

    Relined canvas. Well-preserved paint surface fully intact, except for a 6" x 2" vertical passage to the left of the principal trees in the center of the composition where under black light, there is evidence of newer paint. Newer acrylic varnish may date from its period of acquisition from Richard York Gallery, 1989.  Framed Dimensions 38.5 X 48.75 X 4.5 Inches

    *Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

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