Painter. William Morris Hunt was an American Romantic artist of the 19th century. Born the son of Jonathan Hunt, a member of the United States House of Representatives for the state of Vermont, he learned to draw at an early age, his first teacher being an Italian artist named Gambadella. Wanting to seek art as a profession, he left Harvard College in his third year. Following the untimely death of his father from cholera, he was taken in 1844 by his widowed mother Jane Leavitt Hunt and her other four children to Switzerland and the south of France. After traveling in the Middle East, they stopped in Rome where he did drawings in the studio of American sculptor, Henry Kirke Brown. In 1845, he entered the Düsseldorf Academy in Germany, but left the next year for Paris where he became a pupil of Thomas Couture from 1846 to 1852. The sight of Millet's "The Sower" at the Paris's Salon of 1851 inspired him to spend most of the next two years with Millet at Barbizon. He returned to the United States in 1854 and two years later moved to Newport, Rhode Island, where he painted and took a few pupils. 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 school in 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," "Senator Charles Sumner," "William H. Gardner," "Chief Justice Shaw" and "Judge Horace Gray." In 1862, he settled permanently in Boston where the demand for his portraits grew, as did the size and popularity of his classes. His last trip to Europe was made in 1867. The Great Boston Fire of 1872 destroyed many of his paintings and sketches, together with five large Millets and other art treasures collected by him in Europe. He owned many canvases by Millet, including Millet's "The Sower." He separated from his wife, socialite Louisa Perkins in 1874. Among his later works, the American landscape was predominated. In the summer of 1878, he painted a series of sweeping views of Niagara Falls. His later works also include the murals "Bathers: Twice Painted" and "The Allegories" for the Assembly 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 traced his deepening depression, which eventually led to his suicide, to his despair over the loss of the Albany murals. His 1878 book, "Talks about Art," was especially well received. He had traveled to the New Hampshire shore to recover from a crippling depression, executing his last sketch three days before his death. His body was discovered drowned in a tiny pond near the center of Appledore Island by his friend New Hampshire poet Celia Thaxter. Three months after his death the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston hosted a memorial exhibit of Hunt's work. He was, according to the 1879 exhibit catalog, "beyond question among the first of American artists. He will certainly always retain that position."
Bio by: Shock
Louisa Dumeresq Perkins Hunt