Cider Pressing by George Henry Durrie 1855
Medium: oil on canvas
Dimensions: Height: 22.2 in (56.5 cm); Width: 30.2 in (76.8 cm)
Collection: Private collection (Mr. & Mrs. Eugene Bugbee)
What I love about this painting:
This is a quintessential, slightly romantic, view of history, a window into a New England day in autumn during the 19th century. A farmer leads his ox-drawn cart to the cider press. Is he selling them to the cider-man or just paying to have them juiced? Does he make his own apple jack, or is he a teamster, transporting goods for a fee?
A story can be found here, as in all Durrie’s paintings.
Juicing apples for unfermented ciders juices, jellies, and the highly fermented apple jack was an essential part of bringing in the harvest and preparing for winter, a part of the food chain we who get our food from the supermarket are disconnected from. But this was a scene that played out every fall, in every town and village.
Durrie’s colors are intensely vibrant, deep and rich, and each part of the scene is clear and placed with intent. The air is crisp and cool, but not yet cold. The leaves are turning all shades of red and gold, just as they are doing here today in the Pacific Northwest.
About the Artist, quoted from the National Gallery of Art:
Born in New Haven in 1820, the son of a Connecticut stationer, George Henry Durrie remained in that city virtually his entire life. Married to a choirmaster’s daughter, Sarah Perkins, in 1841, he immersed himself in the quiet pursuits of family and church. While he never achieved the fame of the most renowned nineteenth century American landscape painters, he appears to have had a fulfilling, productive career. His letters show that he never felt the need to move beyond his community, although he once briefly took a studio in New York and exhibited there regularly at the National Academy of Design.
Almost all of his compositions are relatively small in scale, few exceeding 18 x 24 inches, and his views are quiet and intimate. He knew and admired the works of Thomas Cole, and may have tried to emulate certain aspects of Cole’s style, yet he eschewed the Hudson River School’s compositional complexity and expansiveness. Because his paintings combined extensive genre elements with landscape they had a story-telling content that made them pleasant, accessible images to the average viewer.
The lithographic firm of Currier & Ives successfully reproduced ten of Durrie’s scenes and these, in turn, became popular calendar illustrations in the twentieth century. As a result, Durrie’s depictions of rural life in the mid-nineteenth century are now among the most familiar images in all of American art. As Martha Hutson has noted, however, these printed pictures do not convey the keen sensitivity to and understanding of conditions of atmosphere and light that are so pronounced in Durrie’s paintings. 
In his teens the self-taught artist painted portraits in the New Haven area. In 1839 he received artistic instruction from Nathaniel Jocelyn, a local engraver and portrait painter. After 1842 he settled in New Haven, but made painting trips to New Jersey, New York, and Virginia. Around 1850, he began painting genre scenes of rural life, as well as the winter landscapes that became popular when Currier and Ives published them as lithographs. Four prints were published between 1860 and the artist’s death in New Haven in 1863; six additional prints were issued posthumously. The painter Jeanette Shepperd Harrison Loop studied with him. 
Credits and Attributions:
Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:George Henry Durrie – Cider Pressing.JPG,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:George_Henry_Durrie_-_Cider_Pressing.JPG&oldid=369724230 (accessed September 15, 2021).
 National Gallery of Art contributors, “George Henry Durrie,” biography, © 2018 – 2021 National Gallery of Art, https://www.nga.gov/collection/artist-info.6397.html
 Wikipedia contributors, “George Henry Durrie,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=George_Henry_Durrie&oldid=861433469 (accessed September 15, 2021).