Asher Brown Durand was born in August 1796 in New Jersey. He learned the rudimentary of engraving from his father, a silversmith, and a watchmaker. Later, he was apprenticed by engraver Peter Maverick from 1812 to 1817. By 1818, Durand made a partnership with his boss, Charles Cushing Wright, in which he would be the manager of the New York branch of the company.
Now in New York, Durand’s craftsmanship was noticed by highly celebrated American painter John Trumbull, who commissioned Durand to engrave his famous Declaration of Independence in 1823. This commission would significantly boost the artist’s reputation as he became regarded as the United States’ most excellent engraver. He soon was being commissioned to execute book illustrations, banknotes, portraits, as well as copying after other artists’ artwork.
By the 1830s, Durand was already the owner of several printmaking firms, as well as very active and respected in New York cultural society. In 1825, the artist helped to structure the New York Drawing Association, which became the National Academy of Design in the following years; Durand was between the fifteen of the institution’s founding members. During this period, he also participated in several distinguished artist groups, such as the Sketch Club and the Bread and Cheese Club.
In the early 1830s, though he had a quite lucrative career on engraving, Durand would slowly diminish his printmaking to favor portrait painting. This occurred mainly through the influence of prominent art merchant and patron Luman Reed, as well as inspired by leading landscape artist Thomas Cole, who became friends with Durand and greatly encouraged him to change the course of his artistic career. During this transition, Durand was financially aided by Reed.
Durand made a trip to Europe, along with fellow artists John Casilear, John F. Kensett, and Thomas P. Rossiter. There, Durand studied thoroughly the Old Masters, especially the works of Claude Lorrain. Upon his arrival back in the US, the artist executed some European landscape paintings, but he soon went back to sketching through the Hudson River Valley and the Catskills.
Following the death of Thomas Cole in 1848, Durand assumed the position of the leading figure in the American landscape school and artistic scene as a whole. He became highly influential to the next generation of young painters. Some scholars argue that Durand perfected two important compositional modes basic to the Hudson River School, the landscape panorama and vertical forest scenery.
Durand continued to paint throughout his life, often repeating already made compositions; his last picture was concluded in 1878.
Asher Brown Durand died in September 1886 in New Jersey.