DURAND, Asher B. (1796-1886); after Thomas SULLY (1783-1872)
John Quincy Adams, President of the United States
Philadelphia: W.H. Morgan, 1826. Copper engraving. Image size: 20 3/16 x 13 13/16 inches. Sheet size: 27 x 19 1/2 inches.
A magnificent example of this famous portrait of John Quincy Adams by Asher Durand, one of the greatest American engravers.
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. His "Musidora" and his Presidential series, are among the most cherished prints of the period, and his contribution to American landscape painting helped form the nation's artistic identity.
Durand's magnificent portrait of John Quincy Adams is the quintessential example of his superior technique. Its clean lines and meticulous attention to detail create a magnetic image which immediately captivates the viewer's attention. Surrounded by maps and books Adams is portrayed as the enlightened president. His portrait, in composition and execution, is a wonderful example of presidential portraiture, and it is no wonder that the public clamored to purchase this magnificent image.
"This engraving ... was executed at the request of Thomas Sully for the Philadelphia print seller W. H. Morgan, who paid $700 for the plate" (Hudson River Museum). Although the Grolier catalogue and others have attributed the print to be after a portrait by Gilbert Stuart which was finished by Sully (i.e. the Harvard University portrait), the source for the engraving has been more correctly ascribed to a small work painted by Sully alone. The map on the table to Adams' left has been attributed by some to be a copy of the western portion of John Melish's famed map of the United States, which showed the boundaries as negotiated by the Adams-Onis Treaty of 1819.
The Grolier Club, Catalogue of the Engraved Work of Asher B. Durand (New York: 1895), 4; Stauffer 551 (1st state); Hudson River Museum, Asher B. Durand: An Engraver's and a Farmer's Art (Yonkers: 1983) 29; Cunningham, Popular Images of the Presidency: From Washington to Lincoln p. 44-146.