Asher Durand’s Kindred Spirits (1849) at first appears to be a picturesque landscape, but upon closer inspection it has undertones of man’s dominance of nature. The painting features two men- painter Thomas Cole and his friend, writer William Cullen Bryant- standing on a rocky outcropping overlooking a river valley. The landscape is very typical for the time. The scene is framed by a cliff on the right side and a group of trees on the other. It even has the stereotypical storm-blasted tree in the lower left corner.
While the painting consists of mostly nature, it is clearly not the focus of the artwork. The two figures are near the center of the painting and there is nothing obstructing our view of them. They are looking out at the landscape, surveying it. It shows their mastery over nature. The landscape is there for their viewing alone. Even the title of the painting shows that the point of the painting is not the natural environment, but the men in it and their reactions and interactions to it. Either way, nature is just a backdrop for the conquests of men.