- William Morris Hunt
William Morris Hunt (
March 31, 1824- September 8, 1879), American painter, was born at Brattleboro, Vermontto Jane Maria (Leavitt) Hunt and Jonathan Hunt (Vermont Representative), who raised one of the preeminent families in American art.
His father's family were among Vermont's founders and largest landowners; his mother's a family of wealth and prominence in Connecticut. [ [http://books.google.com/books?id=WLfMU4yd1FYC&pg=PA421&lpg=PA421&dq=dwight+leavitt&source=web&ots=I935DS2rWX&sig=oG1VlU3201UX1CscT2TcLmpntxU&hl=en#PPA407,M1 The History of the Descendants of John Dwight, of Dedham, Mass., Benjamin Woodbridge Dwight, New York, 1874] ] Hunt attended Harvard but was expelled in his third year.
Following the untimely death of his Congressman father from cholera, Hunt's mother Jane took him and his brothers to Switzerland, the South of France and to Rome, where Hunt studied with Couture in Paris and then came under the influence of
Jean-François Millet, from whom he learned the principles of the Barbizon school. The Hunt family remained in Europe for a dozen years.
Afterwards, leaving Paris, he painted and established art schools at
Newport, Rhode Island, where he had relatives, Brattleboro, Vermont, Faial Islandin the Azores, where he had family connections [Hunt, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, banker J. P. Morganand writer Samuel Clemenswere all houseguests at 'Bagatelle,' the home in Horta in the Azores belonging to the Dabney family [http://www.newyorker.com/archive/1959/11/21/1959_11_21_137_TNY_CARDS_000260773] , descendants of Bostonian John Bass Dabney, a friend of American Consul at Lisbon William Jarvis, appointed by President Thomas Jeffersonas American Consulon Faial Island in the Azores. [http://www.usconsulateazores.pt/HistoryOfTheConsulate.htm] Hunt apparently elected to stay on to teach art classes.] , and finally at Boston, where he painted, taught art and became a popular portrait painter.
The companionship of Millet had a lasting influence on Hunt's character and style, and his work grew in strength, in beauty and in seriousness. He was among the biggest proponents of the
Barbizon schoolin America, and he more than any other turned the rising generation of American painters towards Paris.
On his return in 1855 he painted some of his most handsome canvases, all reminiscent of his life in France and of Millet's influence. Such are "The Belated Kid," "Girl at the Fountain," "Hurdy-Gurdy Boy," and others But the public called for portraits, and it became the fashion to sit for Hunt; among his best paintings of this genre are those of
William M. Evarts, Mrs Charles Francis Adams, the Rev. James Freeman Clarke, William H. Gardner, Chief Justice Shaw and Judge Horace Gray. [ [http://books.google.com/books?id=bsUnAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA80&dq=%22leavitt+hunt%22+william+morris&lr=&ei=uJ3sSK3tK4rWMLfZ9KMP#PPA80,M1 The Class of 1844, Harvard College, Welch, Bigelow and Company, Cambridge, 1869] ]
Sadly, many of Hunt's paintings and sketches, together with five large Millets and other art treasures collected by him in Europe, were destroyed in the
Great Boston Fire of 1872.
Among his later works American landscapes predominated. In the summer of 1878, the year before his death, Hunt painted a series of sweeping views of Niagara Falls. [ [http://books.google.com/books?id=nS0TAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA48&lpg=PA48&dq=%22jane+maria+leavitt%22&source=web&ots=QmRnjpdEPF&sig=bkS0cc_sAfdjfT8CjS6ubJTOuxw&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=10&ct=result#PPA49,M1 Frank T. Pomeroy, Rudyard Kipling, Picturesque Publishing Company, Northampton, Massachusetts, 1894] ] His later works also include the "Bathers: Twice Painted" and "The Allegories" for the Senate chamber of the State Capitol at
Albany, New York, now lost due to disintegration of the stone panels on which they were painted. (Some scholars trace Hunt's deepening depression that led to his suicide to his despair over the loss of the Albany murals.) [ [http://www.piercegalleries.com/artists/iart_hunt_w_m.html William Morris Hunt, "Portrait of Katherine Dean Hubbard", ca. 1865, Pierce Galleries, Inc., piercegalleries.com] ] His book, "Talks about Art" (London, 1878), was especially well-received.
Nor did Hunt confine himself to oil painting. He was prolific, working as a lithographer and sculptor as well. From 1850 to 1877 the Vermont native was Boston's leading portrait and landscape painter; there was a backlog of Brahmins clamoring to be painted by him. Hunt is widely credited for having influenced the styles of
Winslow Homer, Childe Hassamand John Joseph Enneking. Hunt's signature lively brushwork, partly derived from study of contemporary European painting, marked a new phase in 'oil sketching' that was carried on by Homer and others.
"The greatest of Boston painters," writes art historian G. W. Sheldon in his "American Painters", "and one of the few really great American painters, Mr. William Morris Hunt, was born in Brattleboro, Vermont." While a friend and student of Millet, "Hunt is an entirely original artist, and every picture of his is a spontaneous and independent product." [ [http://books.google.com/books?id=E-_lmW8t61gC&pg=PA88&lpg=PA88&dq=%22william+morris+hunt%22+Boston&source=web&ots=X5wt8ZAQZJ&sig=euNKjTQLxA5C8A7gC-gkBN9Y6Us&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=3&ct=result#PPA89,M1 American Painters, G. W. Sheldon, Ayer Publishing, 1981] ] In a bit of art history revisionism, some scholars are now re-examining Hunt's powerful pull on other early New England artists, many better-known. [ [http://www.jstor.org/pss/1181374 "William Morris Hunt, 1824-1879", Sally Webster, Cambridge Monographs on American Artists, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1991] ]
Hunt was married to Louise Dumaresq Perkins, daughter of
Thomas Handasyd Perkins, Jr., a Boston merchant, philanthropist and patron of the arts. [ [http://books.google.com/books?id=IZoWAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA3&dq=%22thomas+handasyd+perkins+jr.%22#PPA3,M1 Some Merchants and Sea Captains of Old Boston, State Street Trust Company (Boston, Mass.), State Street Trust Company, Boston, Mass State Street Trust Company, 1918] ] [Thomas H. Perkins Jr.'s Beacon Hill home at 1 Joy Street was the venue for salons of Boston's intellectuals and society figures. Perkins, who had a country home in Brookline, also built one of the last private residences on Louisburg Squareat 2 Louisburg Square. [http://books.google.com/books?id=EwO8sFfSe8sC&pg=PA42&dq=%22thomas+handasyd+perkins+jr.%22&lr=&sig=ACfU3U3u_EdTzvYRuuZvXfVxoySbCiELOA#PPA42,M1] ] William Morris Hunt was an important figure in New England arts and society, helping to turn the attention of the cognoscenti towards development in the European art world. Besides collecting himself, Hunt encouraged other Boston collectors to buy works by European artists such as Millet, Claude Monetand others.
In 1867, for instance, Hunt and his wife sailed to Paris to attend the opening of the
Exposition Universelle (1867). In his lectures and art classes, Hunt attracted large numbers of students, many of them from prominent Brahmin families. The Boston philosopher and author William Jamesstudied with Hunt for a time, before turning away from painting to concentrate on his writing.
Certainly Hunt's career owed a debt to Boston's intellectual ferment. A luncheon at his club on Feb. 27, 1870, for instance, found these members of Hunt's circle dining together:
Ralph Waldo Emerson; James Russell Lowell; Henry Wadsworth Longfellow; Edward Clarke Cabot; Martin Brimmer; Thomas Gold Appleton; William James; Francis Blackwell Forbes; and James Thomas Fields. Joining the group as guest was Erastus Brigham Bigelow, a founder of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. [ [http://books.google.com/books?id=qa9aAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA280&lpg=PA280&dq=%22william+morris+hunt%22+%22ralph+waldo+emerson%22&source=web&ots=klZ4EwdIbd&sig=GqlXoo7zXfXwc-HG-V9r5xdUplM&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=8&ct=result#PPA311,M1 Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Waldo Emerson Forbes, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 1914] ]
William Morris Hunt died at the
Isles of Shoals, New Hampshire, in 1879, apparently a suicide. [ [http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?res=9F05E1DB1738E23ABC4153DFBF668382669FDE Death of William Morris Hunt, The New York Times, Sept. 9, 1879] ] Hunt had gone to the New Hampshire shore to recover from a crippling depression. But he continued to work, executing his last sketch three days before his death. His body was discovered by his friend New Hampshire poet Celia Thaxter. [Hunt was plagued throughout his life by periods of depression. Observers often noted that his mood would swing from exhiliration to abject sadness. Today he would probably be diagnosed as bi-polar.]
Richard Morris Huntwas a celebrated architect. His brother Leavitt Huntwas a well-known photographer and attorney. [William Morris Hunt painted his brother Leavitt Hunt in an oil entitled "The Prodigal Son" in 1840.] A fourth brother, Jonathan, was a Parisphysician who also committed suicide. [ [http://books.google.com/books?id=zF90vZBrQ5oC&pg=PA290&lpg=PA290&dq=%22william+morris+hunt%22+richard+leavitt+paris&source=web&ots=J5XodUAUPT&sig=Y6t6J5jzqOedlONsStPzdf6KE3Y&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=7&ct=result Annals of Brattleboro, 1681-1895, Mary Rogers Cabot, Vol. I, E.L. Hildreth & Co., Brattleboro, 1921] ]
The William Morris Hunt Library of the
Boston Museum of Fine Artsis named in honor of this painter. [ [http://www.fenwaylibraries.org/mfa.pdf William Morris Hunt Library, Museum of Fine Arts, fenwaylibraries.org] ] (Hunt was a founding member of the Museum of Fine Arts' museum school.)Aside from the Museum of Fine Arts, the Boston Athenaeumhas a number of the artist's works in its collection, a gift of William Morris Hunt II. [ [http://www.tfaoi.com/aa/5aa/5aa283.htm Images of Children from the Collection of the Boston Athenaeum, www.tfaoi.com] ] Also owning works by Hunt are New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art, the LouvreMuseum in Paris, the Musee d'Orsayin Paris, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, the National Gallery of Artin Washington, D.C., the Addison Gallery of American Art at Hunt's alma mater Phillips Academyin Andover, Mass., the Bowdoin CollegeMuseum of Art, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the Carnegie Museum of Artin Pittsburgh, the Currier Gallery of Artin New Hampshire, the Harvard University Art Museums, Salem's Peabody Essex Museum, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Artsand many others.
In accordance with a long expressed desire, William Morris Hunt was buried beside other family members at Weathersfield, Vermont, where he spent most of the last summer of his life.
* [http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&id=YOgDAAAAYAAJ&dq=%22william+morris+hunt%22&printsec=frontcover&source=web&ots=J91FyosBQ_&sig=20T4aM4lKx3L1xw9CYPI98TtZ5M&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=12&ct=result W. M. Hunt's Talks on Art, William Morris Hunt, Houghton, Osgood & Company, Boston, 1880]
* [http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&id=MowYAAAAYAAJ&dq=%22william+morris+hunt%22&printsec=frontcover&source=web&ots=BCfFrywTBb&sig=Qyv792EB2qVEk47srb-lUZc12f0&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=13&ct=result Exhibition of the Works of William Morris Hunt, December 20, 1879-January 31, 1880, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Alfred Mudge & Son, Boston, 1880]
* [http://126.96.36.199/search?q=cache:H1DeTcq8N5YJ:www.harrisantiques.com/Artist_Research_Biographies_Essay/AmericanArtists/Hunt.doc+%22jonathan+hunt%22+paris+doctor+vermont&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=10&gl=us William Morris Hunt, artist biography, harrisantiques.com]
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