Diplomatic Reception Rooms

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Object Details

Maker
George Henry Durrie (American, 1820-1863)
Date
1856
Geography
Unknown
Culture
North American
Medium
oil on canvas
Dimensions
Overall: 22 in x 30 in; 55.88 cm x 76.2 cm
Provenance
William Macbeth, Inc., New York; to Mabel Brady Garvan by 1947; to Sotheby Parke-Bernet, New York, Sale 4365, April 25, 1980, Lot 9; to Wineland Enterprises, Incorporated, Marlow Heights, Maryland; to the Fine Arts Committee through purchase
Inscriptions
Signed and dated with monogram on the rock at the lower left, "G.HD/56" (the letters "HD" in form of monogram)
Credit Line
Funds donated by Patricia Anne Morton, in memory of her family
Collection
The Diplomatic Reception Rooms, U.S. Department of State, Washington, D.C.
Accession Number
RR-1982.0075

Object Essay

Silent and proud, Durrie’s buildings, people, and animals are fundamentally nostalgic, but never sentimental. Painted during a decade of profound unease, when the relentless approach of the Civil War oppressed the national spirit, the scene is rendered with a structural solidity. Clear, unambiguous shapes and the high tonality of the snowy landscape express a sense of calm persistence, of humanity in harmony with nature in wintry rural isolation. The period’s political instability is nowhere evident in the work.        

Again and again in these years, Durrie painted the New England winter, usually near New Haven, Connecticut, and always with the same reassuring sense of balance.1Winter Farmstead was catalogued by Hutson, 227, no. 256 (“location unknown”), and subsequently authenticated by the same scholar (December 1980). The Hudson River painters, Durrie’s contemporaries, cared little for winter scenes, but Durrie cared for little else. As for many New England artists and writers, winter was his favorite season—not a season of hardship but of the pleasures of self-reliance. It was for him “both an escape and an intimate part of his existence,” and he conveys his contentment “with an immediacy usually reserved for greater art.”2Flexner, 255–56.

William Kloss

Excerpted from Clement E. Conger, et al. Treasures of State: Fine and Decorative Arts in the Diplomatic Reception Rooms of the U.S. Department of State. New York: H.N. Abrams, 1991.