In London on September 15, 1760, John Durand, apprenticed for 7 years to decorative carriage & heraldry painter Charles Catton, Senior (1728-1798). (Public Records Office, London, IRI 1759, Folio 144) In the mid 1760s, apparently somewhat shy of the full 7 year commitment, student John Durand sailed for America, offering to paint inspiring historical paintings for the colonial populace, which was only interested in portraits
John Durand first appeared in newpapers in the colonies in the spring of 1768; although he may have been painting in Virginia, before he advertised in New York. If he was painting in Virginia in 1765, he had certainly left his apprenticeship in London, before its contract expired.
His advertisements reflect his decorative heraldry and carriage painting & staining apprenticeship, as well as his desire to become a history painter. In order to support himself, Durand settled for the common ground for a painter in the American colonies, he painted portraits.
It is reported that he placed an ad in the New York Journal on April 2, 1768, offering drawing instructions in New York. "Any young Gentleman inclined to learn the Principles of Design, so far as to be able to draw any objects and shade them with Indian Ink or Water Colours, which is both useful and ornamental may be taught by John Durand...at his House on Broad Street, near City Hall, for a reasonable Price."
Perhaps he did not attract any interested students. Just days later, he did place the following notice in several papers: April 11, 18, 25, & May 2, 1768 in the New York Gazette, or Weekly Post Boy. April 21 & May 5, 1768 in the New York Journal "The subscriber having from his infancy endeavoured to qualify himself in the art of historical painting, humbly hopes for that encouragement from the gentlemen and ladies of this city and province, that so elegant and entertaining an art has always obtain'd from the people of the most improved minds and best taste and judgment, in all polite nations in every age. And tho' he is sensible that o excel, (in this branch of painitng especially) requires a more ample fun of universal and accurate knowledge than he can pretend to, in geometry, geography, perspective, anatomy, expression of the passions, ancient and modern history, &c. &c. yet he hopes, from the good nature and indulgence of the gentlemen and ladies who employ him, that his humble attempts, in which his best endeavours will not be wanting, will meet with acceptance, and give satisfaction; and he proposes to work at as cheap rates as any person in America."
1768-70 John Durand (French-born?, English-trained, American painter, 1731-1805) Hannah Farmer (Mrs. Benjamin Peck)
"To such gentelmen and ladies as have thought but little upon this subject and might only regard painting as a superfluous ornament, I would just observe, that history painting, besides being extrememly ornamental has many important uses.--It presents to our view some of the most interesting scenes recorded in ancient or modern hisory, gives us more lively and perfect ideas of the things represented, than we could received from a historical account of them, and frequently recals to our memory a long train of events with which those representations were connected. They show us a proper expression of the passions excited by every event, and have an effect, the very same in kind (but stronger) that a fine historical description of the same passage would have upon a judiciouos reader. Men who have distinguished themselves for the good of their country and mankind, may be set before our eyes as examples, and to give us their silent lessons--and besides, every judicuous friend and visitant shares, with us in the advantage and improvement, and increases it value to ourselves." John Durand Near the City Hall, Broad Street
But after his May 5th notice in the New York papers, he had moved north rather suddenly. On May 13, 20, and 27, 1768, he placed the following noice in the Connecticut Journal. "John Durand, Portrait Painter, Intends to Stay in this Town part of the warm season. If any Gentlemen or Ladies, choose to hae thier Pictures Drawn, they may have them Drawn a good deal cheaper than has yet been seen; by applying to the Subscriber living at Captain Camp's House, where several of his Perfomances may be seen. And for more Conveniences of an Gentlemen or Ladies, that would have them Drawn at their Houses, he will wait upon them whenever they please if sent for." John Durand.
1768 Attributed by some to John Durand (French-born?, English-trained, American painter, 1731-1805) Sarah Whitehead Hubbard
This announcement seems to imply that John Durand would be moving south, when the cold weather came to Connecticut. He was apparently somewhat unsuccessful as a portrait painter in New York and New England, although he did paint in Connecticut. From dates on his portraits & notes in account journals, he was working in Virginia in 1770-71, 1775, and 1780.
He advertised twice in Williamsburg, Virginia in the 1770s. On June 7, 1770 & June 21, 1770, he placed the following notice in the Virginia Gazette. "Portrait Painting. Gentlemen and Ladies that are inclined to have their pictures drawn will find the subscriber ready to serve them, upon very moderate terms, either for cash, short credit, or country produce. at their own homes or where he lives, which is next door to the Hon. The Speaker's. He will likewise wait upon Gentlemen and Ladies in the country, if they send for him. He will also paint, gild, and varnish, wheel carriages and put coats of arms, or ciphers, upon them, in a neater and more lasting manner than was ever done in this country."