Monday, May 24, 2010

Those Romantic Winter Scenes

I have two George Durrie prints I'm trying to find out about. I know that One is called “Home to Thanksgiving” and the other one is “The Road-Winter.” What can you tell me about George Durrie and his prints?

ANSWER: George Henry Durrie’s work has often been confused with that of Currier and Ives. He dealt with the same subjects, mostly rural winter themes, and his style is very similar. This is no accident, for while Durrie painted on his own, Currier & Ives marketed his work after their firm became the premier seller of hand-colored lithographs.

Born in Hartford in 1820, Connecticut, Durrie began studying with portraitist Nathaniel Jocelyn in New Haven in 1839. After mastering his painting skills, Durrie traveled throughout his home state of Connecticut and then through New Jersey doing paintings on commission. Although he gained a reputation for his rural landscapes, he also painted still lifes and scenes from Shakespeare to be used as illustrations.

Durrie became especially known for his snow scenes which earned him the nickname “the Snowman.” The paintings this person inquired about above are two of his more famous ones. Like Natanial Currier, Durrie was a meticulous artists, including fine details in his scenes, providing an record of 19th-century rural life. He paid special attention to the foliage and animals in his paintings, making them all the more realistic. But his method was more stylistic than realistic, catering to nostalgic images of farm life that people liked, rather than brutally realistic ones. Pioneers who had traveled West from New England especially liked them.

Though he began painting New England summer farm scenes, he soon discovered that if he added snow to them they became more appealing to the public. Durrie has been credited with adding the “snowscene” into American painting, creating a wintry ambiance that can be found on many Christmas cards today.

Durrie’s reputation preceded him and soon Currier and Ives knew that they had discovered a winner. They had gained success marketing hand-colored lithographs, and his landscapes matched their style of quiet country motifs. Even after his death in 1863, Currier & Ives continued to use his paintings for lithographs, eventually producing 10 lithographs of his work. Among his most popular prints were Cider Making, Winter in the Country, Getting Ice and Winter Morning.

He painted "Home to Thanksgiving" in 1861, only two years before his death. Currier and Ives published the large-folio print from it in 1867. The print originally sold for $1.50. Today, an original of this print sells for many times that. The emphasis here is on an “original” 18x27-inch lithograph in good condition with uncut margins, not a reprint of it.