“The groves were God’s first temples,” wrote the poet William Cullen Bryant in his Forest Hymn, published in 1824. Asher B. Durand, friend and follower of the poet, manifested Bryant’s words through travels on foot and outdoor sketching. His renderings of the idealized American wilderness were based on his close attentive examination of nature.
In this painting, Durand combines a beautiful arboreal pathway and a sublime vista towards a glimmering river and distant mountain range, skewing the traditional symmetrical composition to emphasize the immediacy and timelessness of America’s landscape. Durand was one of the first American painters to see his native scenery not only as a vehicle for symbolic meaning but also in realist terms, for its own sake.