Wednesday, December 18, 2013
Winter in 19C America - New England by George Henry Durrie 1820–1863
George Henry Durrie was an American artist whose rural winter scenes became popular during the Civil War era. Durrie was born in New Haven, Connecticut, where his father was an emigrant from England, & his mother was a descendant of Governor William Bradford, a Mayflower pilgrim. Durrie taught himself to paint in his teens. In 1839, Durrie & his brother John began 2 years of artistic instruction from Nathaniel Jocelyn, a local engraver & portrait painter. Much of Durrie’s early career was spent as an itinerant portrait painter, traveling over the countryside in search of commissions in rural areas. In 1839, Durrie traveled to Hartford & Bethany, Connecticut; and 1840-1841, he worked in Naugatuck & Meriden, Connecticut, and in Freehold & Keyport, New Jersey. After 1842, he settled in New Haven with his new wife & growing family; but he made painting trips to New Jersey, New York, & Virginia. His account book shows at this time his portraits were between $5 to & $15 each. To supplement his income, Durrie did other painting jobs such as altering portraits, varnishing, & painting decorative motifs on window shutters. Around 1850, he began painting genre scenes of rural life & winter landscapes; as portrait painters began to lose business to the camera. An advertisement in the New Haven Daily Register reads: “Having engaged for a few months past in painting a number of choice Winter Scenes, [G. H. Durrie] would offer them at public sale to the admirers of the fine arts… It is needless to add that no collection of pictures is complete without one or more Winter Scenes.” Four of his prints were published by Currier & Ives between 1860 & the artist's death in New Haven in 1863; & 6 additional prints were issued after his death.