Lot 75
  • 75

George Henry Durrie 1820 - 1863

300,000 - 500,000 USD
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  • George Henry Durrie
  • At the Mill, Winter
  • signed G.H. Durrie, dated N. Haven/1858 (lower right)
  • oil on canvas
  • 26 by 36 inches
  • (66 by 91.4 cm)


Charles and Anna Hotchkiss, Bridgeport, Connecticut
Ella Hotchkiss Edwards, Bridgeport, Connecticut (their daughter)
Kenneth Beach Edwards, Palm Springs, California (her son)
Estate of Mary Jane Edwards Young , Spartanburg, South Carolina (his daughter; sold: Sotheby's New York, November 30, 1989, lot 37, illustrated)
Berry-Hill Galleries, New York (acquired at the above sale)
Acquired by the present owner from the above, 1990


New York, Berry-Hill Galleries, A Sense of the Everyday: American Genre Painting, 1991, no. 9


This work is in good condition. The canvas is wax-lined. Under UV: there are scattered dots of inpainting in the upper right quadrant. There is inpainting to frame abrasion at the top and right edges, and 1 dot of inpainting at the far upper left edge.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

We are grateful to Martha Hutson-Saxon, Ph.D. for preparing the following essay. Hutson-Saxon, a leading scholar on George Henry Durrie, is the author of George Henry Durrie: 1820-1863 (Santa Barbara Museum of Art, 1977).

The paintings by George Henry Durrie are treasured examples of mid-nineteenth century American art. He is best known for the serene beauty of his winter landscapes and nostalgic recording of New England farm life before the Civil War. Durrie began his career as a portrait painter with little artistic training. By the early 1850s, he had moved to landscape painting and was studying the views around his native town of New Haven, Connecticut. He was mostly self-taught as a landscape artist and learned from looking at the work of the Hudson  River School. He appreciated the popularity of the foliaged seasons, but was drawn to the dramatic silence and color purity of the winter scene. In his compositions of the countryside with farm yards, inn yards, and grist mills, he communicated contentment with everyday pursuits of country life rather than its challenges.

One of Durrie’s favorite motifs was the grist mill by a stream and he painted it often with the winter season. Grist mills ground the farmer’s grain and were built on a stream that could be dammed in order to control the flow of the water that turned the water wheel. The 1858 painting of At The Mill is a mature example of Durrie’s style with this subject. His description of a visit to the grist mill by the local farmers is placed in a dramatic setting of trees and distant snow-covered fields and mountains. Durrie has created an elaborate balance of genre and landscape elements that is an idealized interpretation of an ordinary occurrence in his lifetime.

During the following five years, Durrie continued to develop his artistic style through a richer painterly technique and artistic vision. In addition to the 1858 painting of At the Mill, Durrie produced another 26 by 36 inch painting that year which was directly related to it. Red School House (Country Scene) (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York) has a similar viewpoint into the composition and added genre elements. Most obvious is the same mid-ground building painted salmon-pink that centers each composition. The school house and the mill differ in function but are remarkably alike in appearance. In At The Mill, the four oxen pulling the sledge with its driver atop the bags add movement into the composition as do the horses pulling the heavily loaded sled in the school house painting. Every element is carefully controlled and calm, even the children playing in the school yard and the skaters on the frozen pond next to the mill. There is a natural sympathy for the ordinary actions of everyday life, such as the horses waiting patiently for their sled to be filled and the placid oxen pulling the sledge with an effortless, steady ease over the snow. The mid-ground fields and overlapping mountain silhouettes are the same compositional elements frequently found in Durrie’s landscapes. The landscape dominates the genre element with a serene beauty that is dramatically enhanced by the twisting trunks and branches of the foreground trees. The color highlights and the touches of snow on these trees draw the eye and give the scene even more visual vibrancy. 

Today Durrie’s paintings are valued for their artistic importance in nineteenth-century American art as well as beloved for their exquisite images of a rural New England heritage.