DURAND, Asher B. (1796-1886), engraver; - John Vanderlyn (1775-1852), after
New York, London and Paris: 1835. Engraving, open letter mounted India paper proof, pencil signed by Durand at the lower right on the mount. Plate size: 17 1/8 x 20 5/8 inches. Sheet size: 20 x 22 1/2 inches. Grolier viii/viii; Stauffer iii/iii.
Signed, India paper proof of Durand's most acclaimed and most controversial work
Asher Durand was hailed as "the most famous engraver in America" and "the father of American landscape painting". His bold clean style was an immediate success, and he consequently produced some of the most important engravings in American print history. "The most noted achievements of Mr. Durand's burin are his two plates of the nude -- Musidora, after his own design, published in 1825, and the Ariadne, after Vanderlyn's masterpiece, published a decade later -- in both of which the rendering of the flesh is particularly successful. There was not only a boldness in essaying such works at that time ... but there was a nobility of purpose, that carried the artist successfully through to their completion, that must win our admiration" (The Grolier Club).
"Ariadne was a Cretan princess briefly loved by Theseus. He abandoned her, however, on the island of Naxos, and she is shown here in her desolation. Durand modified Vanderlyns crisp Neoclassicism, infusing it with a romantic softness and compensating for prudish American tastes by rendering the drapery opaque" (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 97.29.2).
The work was praised by the New York Spectator (October 15, 1835) as "decidedly, the finest example of line engraving ever produced in this country." But while critically acclaimed, the work was a commercial failure as the art buying public did not accept the nude figure as appropriate art. According to his son in his biography of his father, Durand engraved Ariadne purely as a labor of love.
The Grolier Club, Catalogue of the Engraved Work of Asher B. Durand (New York: 1895), 237; Stauffer 682; Asher B. Durand: An Engraver's and a Farmer's Art (Hudson River Musem: 1983) 65.