William Hart (1823 – 1894)
Born in Paisley, Scotland, William Hart became known for serene, bucolic, romantic landscapes with smooth finely executed brush-work. Many of his paintings had cattle and realistic figures diminished in the landscape, a motif he began in the late 1880s when he was inspired by the Lower Keene Valley in northern New York state. Hart also painted portraits, beginning this subject matter when he was age 18.
He, as well as his brother James McDougal Hart, was a second generation “Hudson River School” painter, and a sister, Julie Hart Beers was also a successful artist. George Inness and Asher Durand were major influences, although he was basically self taught.
Hart was the first president of the Brooklyn Academy of Design and also an instructor there. He was founder and three-term president of the American Watercolor Society, and his popular landscapes were exhibited regularly at the National Academy of Design and the American Art Union. He was a highly regarded teacher, and pupils included Homer Martin and Lemuel Miles.
He studied art in Scotland for three years and came to Troy, New York in 1831 as a young boy and apprenticed to Eaton and Gilbert Coachmakers where he painted decorative panels. Then he worked as a window-shade decorator and portrait painter, working from his father’s woodshed and selling them for five dollars a piece. He spent time in Scotland and then returned to the United States, establishing studios in Albany, New York City and Brooklyn. He and his wife, Janet Wallace of Scotland, lived the last part of their lives in Mount Vernon, New York, likely to be near the wife and children of a son, who had died at age 37.
After 1849, Hart traveled throughout the United States including to Richmond, Virginia, and Michigan where he spent several years.
Many of his paintings are dramatic seascapes depicting the coast of Maine, especially from Grand Manan Island.
Matthew Baigell, Dictionary of American Art
Michael David Zellman, 300 Years of American Art
Peter Falk, Who Was Who in American Art
Biography from the Archives of AskART