Dan Ford

Melville and Hawthorne (American Poetry), 2000

Dan Ford (American), Melville and Hawthorne (American Poetry), 2000, oil on canvas, 36 x 28 in. Schwartz Art Collection, Harvard Business School, 2001.18.

Contemporary artist Dan Ford’s painting is a witty play on Asher B. Durand’s 1849 Kindred Spirits (Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art), which portrays the artist Thomas Cole and the poet and critic William Cullen Bryant in the Catskill Mountains. Here Ford reworks Durand’s iconic painting, substituting Cole and Bryant with the writers Herman Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne in the foreground, and inserting a McDonald’s restaurant in the background as his comment on the changing American landscape and the “blizzards of convenience” that have “blanketed New England in malls and McDonalds” in his lifetime. Unlike Durand’s painting, where Cole and Bryant contemplate the kindred arts of painting and poetry while walking in nature, here, as Ford describes, “Melville and Hawthorne . . . go for a wander through the primordial forest and come upon the sublime vision: the Golden Archway!”