George Henry Durrie


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Painter. Best known for winter scenes romanticizing cozy seasonal pleasures in the country, he also painted summer landscapes, portraits, still lifes, and a few narratives. A lifelong resident of New Haven, Connecticut, he was mostly self-taught as an artist, although from 1839 to 1841 he intermittently worked with New Haven portrait painter and engraver Nathaniel Jocelyn (1796–1881). In the early 1840s he traveled itinerantly in search of portrait commissions but around the middle of the decade began to concentrate on the Connecticut landscape. Influenced by Thomas Cole's paintings, he shared many interests with Hudson River School painters. Yet Durrie put more emphasis on genre elements than they commonly did. His compositions were less sophisticated, and his concentration on detail worked against their more unified effects. Yet, although his works rarely display the metaphysical grandeur of the finest Hudson River School paintings, they compensate with charming domestic contentment. The characteristic Returning to the Farm (New-York Historical Society, 1861) depicts a farmer bringing to his homestead a sled-load of logs. 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. Although snowfall seems imminent, the treatment implies pleasures of the fireside, rather than danger or privation. Issued in the 1860s as Currier & Ives prints, ten of Durrie's winter scenes found particularly widespread popularity and inspired imitation. His brother John Durrie Jr. (1818–98), who also studied with Jocelyn, painted portraits and still lifes in New Haven. George Boice Durrie (1842–1907), a son, painted as well, although in addition he became a physician. He left New Haven in the mid-1860s to live in the New York area. He occasionally signed his name George H. Durrie, creating the possibility (perhaps intentionally) of confusion with his father's work.

Subjects: Art.

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