Progress (The Advance of Civilization) (Primary Title)

Asher B. Durand, American, 1796 - 1886 (Artist)

Oil on canvas
Framed: 58 7/16 × 82 1/4 × 4 3/8 in. (148.43 × 208.92 × 11.11 cm)
Unframed: 48 × 72 in. (121.92 × 182.88 cm)

One of the most canonical pictures by a member of the so-called Hudson River school of landscape painters, Asher B. Durand’s Progress points to several aspects of cultural and social history, including ecology, Native American policies, and railroads and the Industrial Revolution. Offsetting the locomotive, canal, townscape, and the log cabin at right, the Native American presence (relegated to the left foreground) reminds us of the sacrifices engendered by the “advance of civilization.”

Progress was commissioned by financier, industrialist, and collector Charles Gould, who shortly thereafter became broker and then treasurer for the Ohio and Mississippi Railroad. Gould did not dictate the style or subject matter of Progress, but he was one of many antebellum patrons who commissioned art, preserving in paint the kind of landscapes threatened by their own interests in locomotive industries.

Gift of an Anonymous Donor
Annual Exhibition, National Academy of Design, New York, April 19–July 9, 1853

The Railroad in the American Landscape: 1850–1950, The Wellesley College Museum, Wellesley, Mass., April 15–June 8, 1981.

American Dreams: Paintings and Decorative Arts from the Warner Collection, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, September 20, 1997–January 2, 1998

Kindred Spirits: Asher B. Durand and the American Landscape, Brooklyn Museum, March 30–July 29, 2007; Smithsonian American Art Museum, September 14, 2007–January 6, 2008; San Diego Museum of Art, February 2–April 27, 2008

Thomas Cole’s Journey: Atlantic Crossings, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, January 30–May 13, 2018; Thomas Cole: Eden to Empire [exhibition title in London], National Gallery of Art, London, June 11–October 7, 2018
Letter from Charles Gould to Asher B. Durand, April 19–20, 1853), Asher B. Durand Papers, New York Public Library.

Illustrated News 1 (April 30, 1853), 280, illustrated 281.

Catalogue of the Twenty-eighth Annual Exhibition of the National Academy of Design (New York: Sackett & Co., 1853), no. 31.

“The Fine Arts: The Exhibition of the Academy,” Literary World 12 (April 30, 1853), 358; reproduced in American Art to 1900: A Documentary History, eds. Sarah Burns and John Davis (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009), 299–300.

The Knickerbocker, 42, no. 1 (July 1853): 95.

“Advance of Civilization—from a Painting by Durand,” Ballou’s Pictorial Drawing Room Companion 8, no. 14 (April 7, 1855), illustrated 221.

John Durand, The Life and Times of A.B. Durand (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1894), 175.

Mary Bartlett Cowdry, National Academy of Design Exhibition Record, 1826-1860: Volume I, A–L (New York: New-York Historical Society, 1943), 139.

Quality: An Experience in Collecting (New York: Hirschl & Adler Galleries, 1974), n.p., illustrated no. 11.

Advertisement, The Magazine Antiques 106 (November 1974), 694.

David B. Lawall, Asher B. Durand: A Documentary Catalogue of the Narrative and Landscape Paintings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1978), no. 172.

Wayne Craven, “Asher B. Durand’s Imaginary Landscapes,” The Magazine Antiques 116 (November 1979): 1120–27, illustrated.

Barbara Novak, Nature into Culture: American Landscape Painting, 1825–1875 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1980), 172–73, illustrated 173.

Kenneth W. Maddox, “The Railroad in the Eastern Landscape,” in The Railroad in American Landscape, 1850-1950, ed. Susan Danly Walther (Wellesley, Mass.: Wellesley College Art Museum, 1981), 17–36.

Joseph S. Czestochowski, The American Landscape Tradition: A Study and Gallery of Paintings (New York: E.P. Dutton, 1982), illustrated fig. 6.

The Magazine Antiques 130 (November 1986): illustrated 1038.

John K. Howatt, American Paradise: The World of the Hudson River School (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1987), 41, illustrated 40.

Kenneth W. Maddox, “Asher B. Durand’s Progress: The Advance of Civilization and the Vanishing American,” in The Railroad in American Art: Representations of Technological Change, ed. Susan Danly and Leo Marx (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1988), 51–86.

Matthew Baigell, “Territory, Race, Religion: Images of Manifest Destiny,” Smithsonian Studies in American Art 4 (summer-autumn 1990): 16, illustrated.

Paul H. Walton, “The Group of Seven and Northern Development,” RACAR: Revue d'art canadienne/Canadian Art Review 17, no. 2 (1990): 175

Albert Boime, The Magisterial Gaze: Manifest Destiny and American Landscape Painting, c. 1830–1865 (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1991), 74–85.

Patricia Hills, "Picturing Progress in the Era of Westward Expansion," in The West as America: Reinterpreting Images of the Frontier, 1820-1920, ed. William H. Truettner (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1991), 132, illustrated 132.

Angela Miller, The Empire of the Eye: Landscape Representation and American Cultural Politics, 1825–1875 (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1993), 154–65.

The Magazine Antiques 130 (November 1994): illustrated 652.

Wayne Craven, American Art: History and Culture (Madison, Wisc.: Brown and Benchmark, 1994), 204–07, fig. 15.9.

William H. Truettner and Alan Wallach, eds., Thomas Cole, Landscape into History (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1994), 76–77, no. 92.

David Park Curry, Elizabeth O’Leary, and Susan Jensen Rawles, American Dreams: Paintings and Decorative Arts from the Warner Collection (Richmond: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, 1997), 30–31, illustrated + back cover.

Lucy Rider Weber, “George Inness and the Hudson River School: Polarizing the Middle Landscape” (M.A. thesis, Virginia Commonwealth University, 1997), 6, 37–44, 59, 60, 67, illustrated 127.

Kenneth W. Maddox, “Intruder into Eden: The Train in the Nineteenth-Century American Landscape” (Ph.D. dissertation, Columbia University, 1999), 38, 76, 140–70, 177, 218, 284, 368,

David Bjelajac, American Art: A Cultural History (Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 2000), 208–209.

Tom Armstrong, An American Odyssey: The Warner Collection of American Fine and Decorative Arts, Gulf States Paper Coroporation, Tuscaloosa, Alabama (New York: The Monacelli Press and Sotheby’s, 2001), 59, 86, 96, 98–102, illustrated 99.

William H. Truettner, “Gathering Steam: Railroad Images from East to West,” Journal of the West 40 (fall 2001): 43–52.

Frances K. Pohl, Framing America: A Social History of American Art (New York: Thames and Hudson, 2002), 163, fig. 3.45.

Tim Barringer, “The Course of Empires: Landscape and Identity in America and Britain, 1820-1880,” in American Sublime, Landscape Painting in the United States, 1820-1880, ed. Andrew Wilton and Tim Barringer (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2002), 54, illustrated.

Kenneth W. Maddox, “The Train in the Pastoral Landscape,” Railroad Heritage, no. 14 (2005): 43–44, illustrated 46.

H. Daniel Peck, “Unlikely Kindred Spirits: A New Vision of Landscape in the Works of Henry David Thoreau and Asher B. Durand,” American Literary History 17 (winter 2005): 703.

Linda S. Ferber, ed., Kindred Spirits: Asher B. Durand and the American Landscape (New York: Brooklyn Museum, 2007), 165-68, illustrated fig. 59.

Antiques & Fine Art (Autumn/Winter 2007): 155.

Sally Webster, “Unitarianism and the Iconography of Democracy: Decorations for the Library of Congress,” The Library Quarterly: Information, Community, Policy 80 (October 2010): 369, illustrated 370.

Maggie M. Cao, “Heade’s Hummingbirds and the Ungrounding of Landscape,” American Art 25 (fall 2011): 67, illustrated.

“Two American Masterpieces, Sold,” Tuscaloosa News, December 1, 2011.

Dimitrios Latsis, “Nature's Nation on the Screen: Discursive Functions of the Natural Landscape in Early American Film,” Amerikastudien/American Studies 58, no. 1 (2013): 125.

Kenneth W. Maddox, “‘His Nooks and Hiding Places’: Asher B. Durand’s Retreats in the Hudson Highlands,” Hudson River Valley Review 31 (autumn 2014): 81–94.

Jennifer Roberts, Transporting Visions: The Movement of Images in Early America (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2014), 148–52, illustrated 150, detail illustrated 151.

Elizabeth Mankin Kornhauser and Tim Barringer, Thomas Cole’s Journey: Atlantic Crossings (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2018), 90–91, 221, 224, 232–33, illustrated no. 61.

Some object records are not complete and do not reflect VMFA's full and current knowledge. VMFA makes routine updates as records are reviewed and enhanced.