William Hart (1823 - 1894)
View of Lake Windermere, n.d.
Oil on canvas
20 x 33 inches
Signed at lower left: Wm. Hart
William Hart was born in Paisley, Scotland, in 1823 and taken to America in early youth by his family. He was apprenticed to a carriage painter in Albany, New York, where his first artistic experience was in decorating the panels of coaches with landscapes. He returned to Scotland, probably in the early or mid 1840s, where he studied for three years.
By the time he returned to America, Hart had shifted his energy to landscape painting. He exhibited his first work at the National Academy of Design in 1848, became a full member in 1858, and continued to show his paintings there regularly through the mid- 1870s. He also exhibited at the Brooklyn Art Association and at major exhibitions around the country. Hart was a member of the American Watercolor Society, and was its president from 1870 to 1873.
Like most of the major landscape artists of the time, Hart settled in New York City and opened a studio in the Tenth Street Studio building in 1858. His mature landscape style embraced the mannerism of the late Hudson River School by emphasizing light and atmosphere. He became particularly adept at depicting angled sunlight and foreground shadow; the best examples of this are: Seashore Morning (1866) in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and After the Storm (1860s) in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Hart is also known for his prolific paintings of cows. Cattle were a popular motif in Hudson River School art, and nearly every artist included them in at least some of their landscapes as diminutive symbols of man's harmonious relationship with nature. These paintings, which were very popular with late 19th century American collectors, typically featured several cattle grazing or watering in the foreground or middle distance with the landscape playing a supporting role as a bucolic backdrop.
Hart died at Mount Vernon, New York, on June 17, 1894.