Asher B. Durand’s Engraving of David Crockett
150. [CROCKETT, DAVID]. DE ROSE, A[nthony] L[ewis] (artist) & A[sher] B[rown] Durand (engraver). [Facsimile in Crockett’s handwriting] I leave this rule, for others when I am dead | Be always sure, you are right, then go, a head. | David Crockett [rubric]. [below portrait] Painted by A.L. De Rose. | Engraved by A.B. Durand. N.p., n.d. [New York, early 1830s]. Engraved bust portrait (facing right) of a handsome, pleasantly countenanced David Crockett with sideburns, neck-length hair, white shirt with high-standing collar, and formal coat with high lapels and buttons. Portrait, imprint, text, and signature below: 17.5 x 18 cm; plate mark: 23.3 x 21.3 cm; overall sheet size: 27 x 23.7 cm. Old fold about a third from top, a few minor fox marks, overall fine, matted, black and gilt wooden frame, under glass.
First edition of a real portrait of the legendary Crockett of Alamo and other fame. Grolier Club, Catalogue of the Engraved Work of Asher B. Durand (New York, 1894) #29. Kelsey, Engraved Prints of Texas 1554-1900, pp. 10 & 25, Figure 2.4 (locates a copy at the San Jacinto Museum of History). James T. Mitchell, The Unequalled Collection of Engraved Portraits belonging to Hon. James T. Mitchell…. (Philadelphia, 1907) #286. This portrait, one of the few authentic and serious images of the iconic Crockett, was created at the height of Crockett’s national popularity as an exotic representative of the West. After the countless comical and outlandish cartoons of Crockett in the almanacs and elsewhere, this is a refreshing change that connects us to the real man. According to a footnote in Sam DeShong Ratcliffe’s, Painting Texas History to 1900 (University of Texas, 1991, p. 107), engraver Asher B. Durand had an arrangement to sell these engravings at fifty cents per copy.
Durand’s engraving was based on a watercolor portrait by Anthony Lewis De Rose (see illustration on p. ii of James Atkins Shackford & John B. Shackford, David Crockett, University of Nebraska, 1986; the watercolor is in the New-York Historical Society). Artist De Rose (1803-1836), a native of New York, studied under J.R. Smith, was an early student at the National Academy School, and attained Academician in 1833. His specialty was portraiture and historical composition (see Mantle Fielding, p. 222). Engraver Asher Brown Durand (1796-1886), who has been called the “Father of American Landscape Painting,” apprenticed to engraver Peter Maverick in 1812 and eventually became Maverick’s partner. His reputation for skillful, pure line engraving was established with his large plate of John Trumbull’s Declaration of Independence painting, and Asher went on to engrave meticulous, artistic bank notes. In 1836, Durand abandoned engraving and became a landscape painter, to which he devoted the rest of his life, working with the Hudson River School. He was a charter member of the National Academy and served as its president from 1845 to 1861 (see DAB and Mantle Fielding, p. 244).
Copyright Dorothy Sloan 2009