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Artist Biography

William Hart was one of the leading artists of the Hudson River School, known primarily for his idyllic landscapes and river scenes with grazing cows. Scottish-born Hart arrived in America as a child in 1831 along with his brother, James McDougal Hart, who was also a painter. The Harts grew up in Albany, New York, and William made his art debut as a painter of carriages and window shades. His aspirations and talent, however, carried him well beyond that simple trade, and by his eighteenth birthday he was selling portrait paintings. In 1840, he left Albany and traveled widely throughout the United States, painting along the way.

Hart abandoned portraits in favor of landscapes around 1845, and in 1847 returned to Albany where he established his reputation and became a sought-after teacher. In 1848 he had his first exhibition at the National Academy of Design, becoming an even more prolific exhibitor than his brother James. For example, William Hart exhibited more than 110 works at the National Academy from 1848 to 1874, and also contributed heavily to shows at the Brooklyn Art Association from 1861 to 1882, and at every major exhibition throughout the country.

William Hart was not only a very talented painter, but also an active participant in the art community. He was the first president of the Brooklyn Academy of Design and a founding member and President of the American Society of Painters in Watercolors from 1870 to 1873. William Hart is remembered as an insightful painter whose work is full of introspection, fully able to endow his compositions with a lyrical and poetic sense of hour and locale [John Driscoll, All that is Glorious Around Us, (1997), p. 82].

The work of William Hart is held in some of the most important collections of American art throughout the country. The major museums that hold his work include: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY; Arnot Art Museum, Elmira, NY; Newark Museum of Art, Newark, NJ; Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT; Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH; Museum of Art, Ann Arbor, MI; National Museum of American Art, Washington, DC; High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA; Colorado Springs Fine Art Center, Colorado Springs, CO; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX; Phoenix Art Museum, Phoenix, AZ.