ARTIST: John Durand’s (active 1766-1782) was a Colonial painter active in New York and Virginia. His early history is not known for certain, but it is generally accepted that he is the son of Jonas and Elizabeth Durand. Jonas was a London pewterer. The family was of French Huguenot descent. The American artist John Durand may by the same John Durand who apprenticed in 1760 in London with Charles Catton (1728-1798), a member of the Painters-Strainers Company.
Durand was in New York City by 1766 when he painted portraits of the Beekman Children now in the collection of the New York Historical Society. (NYHS acc. 1962.65, 69, 71, 73, 74). In New York Durand also advertised a drawing academy and solicited patronage for a series of history paintings. He first came to Virginia in where he advertised decorative painting–including the painting of cyphers and heraldry on carriages–in the Virginia Gazette. During the 1770s Durand painted in Norfolk and Petersburg, Virginia, as well as in Connecticut and New York.
DESCRIPTION: Samuel and Elizabeth Carr typify Durand’s most straightforward compositions. Their half-length formats, space-filling images, and plain backgrounds combine with the sitters’ direct, level gazes to create a forthright, pared down look that would have been quite modish at the time. Philosophically, it also expressed the sentiments of growing numbers of colonists who favored substance over show. The simple, narrow moldings of the original frames contribute to an overall effect of tasteful restraint.