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William Morris Hunt   Click Images to Enlarge

William Morris Hunt
Portrait of Priscilla,
oil on canvas 20 x 15 1/4 inches

(American 1824-1879)

Portrait of Katherine Dean Hubbard integrates gold and brown tonalities that are typical of those like Hunt who were inspired by Millet. The painting's refined detailing in the face, hair, clothing and book expressive surely applied brushwork. William Morris Hunt did not paint children often, probably because he had too many adults commissioning him to paint them. This portrait shows the artist's ability to paint a sweet-looking child who wants to read and learn.

Hunt was a prestigious American painter, lithographer, sculptor and teacher by 1880 who was revered as a master by painters worldwide. Because of his vast intellect and wisdom regarding fine art, Hunt convinced wealthy collectors and museums to follow his advice and purchase Barbizon and later French paintings, notably by Millet and Monet. In his memory, the MFA named The William Morris Hunt Library after the artist. In 1868 he opened a school of art for women in Boston and was a founding member of the Museum School at the MFA). In 1872, the Boston fire destroyed his French art collection (and many Millets) and his own work. In 1875 his famous Talks on Art influenced artists and collectors to study art.

Hunt was born on March 31, 1824, in Brattleboro, Vermont and he died at the age of 55 on the Isle of Shoals (NH) of an apparent suicide on November 8, 1879. He studied with Henry Kirke Brown at Harvard University; in Dusseldorf, in Paris with T. Couture from 1847-1853 (who turned his attention to quick sketches), and in Barbizon with Millet from 1853-1855. From 1850-1877, Hunt was Boston's leading portrait and landscape painter . During the 1870s he joined Duveneck, Chase and Inness to develop the lively brushwork and generalized forms associated with oil sketching .

Hunt conducted classes in Boston from 1868 until his death in 1879. He is given credit for highly influencing the artistic life of Winslow Homer, John Joseph Enneking and Childe Hassam. His teaching philosophies were recorded in Helen Knowlton's Talks on Art volumes of 1875 and 1883 and in Knowlton's Life of William M. Hunt in 1899. Some historians believe that when Hunt's commission to paint murals at the Albany State Capitol was completed but destroyed by dampness and he was not paid, the artist was destitute and depression led to his apparent suicide. Nevertheless, he is still revered as one of the finest painters to have come from New England because his brushwork was beautifully orchestrated and he had complete knowledge about how best to paint a portrait or a landscape.

Hunt is in the permanent collections at the Metropolitan Museum, Worcester Art Museum, Essex Institute (Salem), Museum of Fine Arts (Boston), Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge), Mead Art Gallery (Amherst); Portland Art Museum (Maine), Corcoran Gallery (Washington, DC), Ball State University, the National Gallery of Art, Musée d'Orsay (Paris), Brigham Young Museum of Art (Utah), Cleveland Art Museum, Fine Art Museum of San Francisco, Springfield Museum of Art (MA), Court House, Salem, MA; Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art and many more.

References : Columbia Encyclopedia , 7 th edition; Cyclopedia of American Artists, volume 2; Who Was Who in American Art , volume 2; William Morris Hunt , Sally Webster (February 1992, Cambridge University Press); William Morris Hunt , Helen Knowlton (circa 1910); MFA, Boston, “Exhibition of the works of William Morris Hunt,” Boston, 1880; listed in most major reference books on American artists.