Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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DURAND, Cyrus, engraver, born in Jefferson village, New Jersey, 27 February 1787; died in Irvington, New Jersey, 18 September 1868. He was descended from Huguenots who came to this country after the revocation of the edict of Nantes, and his father was a watchmaker. Cyrus received a common school education in his native village, and was for a time occupied in the construction of machinery. In this he was eminently successful, and when, in consequence of the non intercourse acts passed by England, factories sprang up everywhere, his services were in great demand. In 1814 he settled in Newark, New Jersey, where he worked as a silversmith, and in the autumn of that year volunteered as a drummer, and served for three months at Sandy Hook.
A year later he was employed in the Taurino factory in Rahway, N. J. making machines for spinning and carding hair for the manufacture of carpets, fits attention was then directed to banknote engraving, and he made for Peter Maverick, of New York, a machine for ruling straight and wave lines for banknotes. During the next year he made two other machines, one for drawing waterlines, and the other for making plain ovals. These machines, of his own invention, may be regarded as the beginning of that series of geometrical lathes by which machine work on banknotes has been carried to a degree of excellence that rivals the rich effects of the burin and pencil. After this Durand devoted himself to banknote engraving, and his inventions include many appliances, the principal of which, beside the geometrical lathe, are machines for engine turning and transfer presses. He was a skilled workman of unusual ability, and was considered capable of working in twenty-two occupations.
His brother, Asher Brown Durand, artist, born in Jefferson, New Jersey, 21 August 1796; died in South Orange, 17 September 1886, acquired in his father's workshop some knowledge of the elementary processes of engraving. At first he confined his attention to cutting initials on spoons and similar objects. His earliest attempts at engraving prints were made on plates rolled out of copper coins and with gravers of his own make. The success of these efforts led to a commission to copy a portrait on the lid of a snuffbox. In 1812 he was apprenticed to Peter Maverick, an engraver in New York City, and five years later he was admitted into partnership with his master. His first original work was a "Beggar," after a painting by Samuel Waldo, and when John Trumbull painted the " Declaration of Independence," Charles Heath, of London, was to have engraved it, but, business complications having arisen, the picture was given to Durand.
He worked steadily at it for three years, and the best-known engraving in the United States was the result. His reputation was at once established and his work grew in demand. "Musidora," engraved in 1825, and "General Jackson," in 1828, are prominent plates of this period. Mr. Durand contributed extensively to the "annuals," which were then fashionable, and some of his best work appears in these, including "The Wife," by S. F. B. Morse, " A Gypsying Party," after Charles R. Leslie, and the " White Plume," by Charles C. Ingham.
He executed many of the heads engraved for the "National Portrait Gallery", and "Ariadne," after John Vanderlyn's painting, was his work. Mr. Durand, who was an admirable draughtsman and possessed an instinctive sense of color, became dissatisfied with the limits of engraving, and aspired for a wider field of art. He studied nature diligently, and became most proficient in landscape painting, which from 1836 became his chosen occupation. Professor Robert W. Weir speaks of him as one of "the fathers of American landscape." A few portraits are among his earlier productions in oil, such as heads of Andrew Jackson, John Quincy Adams, James Madison, and Edward Everett, while those of William Cullen Bryant, James Kent, and Gouverneur Kemble are among his latest works in this line : and he also executed several figure paintings, among which are "Harvey Birch and Washington," "The Capture of Andre," "The Dance on the Battery," "The Wrath of Peter Stuyvesant," and " God's Judgment on Gog." His landscapes include "The Catskills from tIillsdale," "The Franconia Mountains," "The Rainbow," "Sunday Morning," "Primeval Forest," "Franconia Notch," and several views of Lake George. His largest canvas, "A Mountain Forest" (1869), now hangs in the Corcoran gallery, Washington. Of his recent works, "Studies from Nature," "I1 Pappagallo," and "Kauterskill Clove," were sent to the Philadelphia exhibition in 1876.
He was one of the founders of the National academy of design in 1826, and after the resignation of Sanmel F. B. Morse, in 1845, was its president till 1861.His son, John, art critic, born in New York City, 6 May 1822, edited for several years a monthly publication called "The Crayon," devoted especially to the interests of the fine arts. He has also translated several of Taine's works, including " Ideal in Art" (New York, 1868); " Italy, Rome, and Naples" (1868); "ltaly, Florence, and Venice" (1869); "Philosophy of Art ; Art in the Netherlands" (1870); and " Art in Greece" (1871).
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