Although William Morris Hunt (1824-1879) is included in all standard surveys of American art, this is the first modern study of the influential Boston painter who played a leading role during an important watershed period in American art. Little examined, this era (1850-1880) witnessed the decline of the nativist school of landscape painting and the emergence of a new aesthetic introduced by successive generations of European-trained artists who sought to bring more emotion and painterly expression to this country’s art.
Members of this generation included John La Farge, Elihu Vedder, Franck Duveneck, George Fuller, George Inness, William Merritt Chase, and Albert Pinkham Ryder, many of whom Hunt encouraged during their early careers. Hunt, himself, worked in many modes – sculpture, genre, portraiture, lithography – and at the end of his life made a lasting contribution to the fields of American landscape and mural painting. Hunt was also the author of the well-known Talks on Art (1875).
Conceived as a compendium of his classroom instructions, it is in fact a passionate account of his views on art and artists. Today, Hunt’s ideas and influence are better known than his paintings. The many illustrations included in this volume, a number of which have never been published before (including important studies for his now lost Albany murals), deepen our understanding of this gifted teacher and highly regarded painter.