A predecessor of Thomas Cole, Asher Brown Durand is a naturalist painter and one of the founders of the Hudson River School. Born in Jefferson Village (now Maplewood), New Jersey, Durand was the apprentice of an engraver in his early years. His success began in 1820 when he was commissioned to engrave a painting by John Trumbull titled The Declaration of Independence (1786; Yale University Art Gallery). Because of his association with this work, he held the company of other painters such as Samuel F.B. Morse, William Sydney, and Thomas Cole. Together these men, among others, founded the National Academy of Design; Durand served as the Academy's President from 1845-1861. With his brother, he founded a banknote engraving company and had a hand in the graphic work of the United States paper currency; he also is known for the portraits he painted of several American Presidents.
After travelling through Europe in 1841, he returned to the Hudson River area and began painting landscapes. He painted the Hudson River Area, and the Adirondack Mountains. He was one of the first landscape painters to work out-of-doors and became famous for this methodology. His most famous work, Kindred Spirits (1849), features Thomas Cole and William Cullen Bryant in a Catskill forest setting. Kindred Spirits is one of the most renowned paintings of the Hudson River School.
Durand died in 1886, and is remembered most for his detailed naturalistic style portraits of trees, rocks, and foliage.