Open main menu

HUNT, ALFRED WILLIAM (1830–1896), landscape painter, born at Liverpool on 15 Nov. 1830, was the seventh child, and the only son who survived infancy, of the painter Andrew Hunt [q. v.], by his marriage with Sarah Sanderson. He was educated at the Liverpool collegiate school, and gained a scholarship at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, in 1848. In 1851 he won the Newdigate prize for English verse, the subject being 'Nineveh,' and he graduated B.A. in 1852. In 1853 he was elected to a fellowship at his college, which he resigned on his marriage in 1861. In 1882 the college paid him the compliment of electing him an honorary fellow. He had painted since the age of eight under his father's instruction, and had spent his vacations during his school and college days in sketching from nature in Scotland, Cumberland, Wales, and Devonshire, and in 1850 on the Rhine. He had exhibited drawings at a very early age at the Liverpool Academy, of which he became a member in 1850, and later at the Portland Gallery in London. At Oxford he was deeply impressed by the writings of John Ruskin and by the art of Turner. James Wyatt, the well-known print-seller in the High Street, purchased his drawings, though not on a liberal scale of remuneration, and encouraged him to adopt painting as a profession. Hunt hesitated for a time between an academic and an artistic career. He was a good scholar, a clear and ready speaker, and took much interest in politics as well as literature; but he was first and foremost an artist, and Wyatt turned the scale in 1854 by giving him a commission to go to Wales and paint as much as he could. In that year he exhibited a picture, 'Wastdale Head from Styhead Pass, Cumberland,' at the Royal Academy, and two years later a small oil-painting by him, 'Llyn Idwal, Carnarvonshire,' was hung on the line. It was much praised by Ruskin, and was followed by other landscapes. These, however, were too much in the pre-Raphaelite manner to find favour with the hanging committee. In his pictures were badly hung, and in an elaborate work, 'The Track of an Old-World Glacier,' was refused. Ruskin protested vehemently in his notes on the Academy against the treatment of Hunt, but his combative championship did the painter little good in official circles. Hunt was at this time in close touch with the pre-Raphaelites, though not a member of the brotherhood, and he was one of the original members of the Hogarth Club. He exhibited at the Academy each year from 1859 to 1862, but his pictures were badly hung, and after that time persistently refused, till he ceased to send them in. This discouragement caused him almost to abandon oil-painting, though he was no less gifted in the use of oils than in that of water-colours. In 1862 he was unanimously elected an associate of the Old Water-colour Society, to which he became a regular contributor. He was elected a full member in 1864. For about seven years he worked in water-colours only, but in 1870 he again exhibited an oil-painting at the Royal Academy, and continued to do so occasionally till within a few years of his death. His contributions amounted in all to thirty-seven. At the gallery in Pall Mall East he exhibited more than three hundred water-colours, and these represent only a small proportion of his life's work, for he was a rapid though a very careful worker. He devoted much time and energy to the service of the Royal Water-colour Society, as it has been called since 1881; this advance and the prosperity which the society has enjoyed in recent years were due in some measure to Hunt's exertions. He was a trustee of the society from 1879 onwards, and acted as deputy-president in 1888. He was largely instrumental in organising the Art Club, for social meetings and temporary loan exhibitions, in connection with the society, which was formed in 1883. After his marriage in 1861 Hunt lived for a time at Durham, but in 1865 he came to London and took a house, 1 Tor Villas (afterwards called 10 Tor Gardens), Campden Hill, Kensington, which had been occu- pied previously by Mr. James Clarke Hook and Mr. Holman Hunt. This was his resi- dence during the remainder of his life, and he died there on 3 May 1896. A fine and representative loan collection of his works was exhibited in the following year at the private gallery of the Burlington Fine Arts Club. Exhibitions had been held in his lifetime at the Grosvenor Gallery and in the rooms of the Fine Art Society in New Bond Street (1884).

On 16 Nov. 1861 Hunt married Margaret, second daughter of James Raine [q. v.] Mrs. Hunt, who, with three daughters, survives him, is the authoress of several novels. Hunt painted much at Durham, on the Tees, and at Whitby and other places on the north-east coast of England, but also on the Thames (Sonning, Pangbourne, Windsor, &c.), in Scotland and Wales, in Switzerland, on the Rhine and Moselle, and in Italy, Sicily, and Greece, during a tour of nine months in 1869-70. He visited America and painted the Falls of Niagara in a season of exceptional drought. He was a devoted disciple, but by no means a mere imitator, of Turner. Like Turner, he was a painter of the sky, of cloud, sunshine, and mist. He used watercolour with an exquisite purity and delicacy, and was no less diligent m the exact study of nature than in acquiring mastery over the technicalities of his art. He took a very high view of the function of the artist, and had a deep and reverent love for the beauty of the world as a manifestation of the divine. His sincere and modest work, inspired by an aim so spiritual, did not show to advantage in a mixed exhibition, and failed to attract the attention it deserved, especially at the Academy; but his reputation witli collectors and good judges of art stands high, and is certain to increase. Most of his pictures are in private hands; 'Windsor Castle' (1889) is in the Tate Gallery, and 'Working Late' (exhibited in 1873) is in the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool.

[Times, 5 May 1896; Daily Graphic, 7 May 1896; Illustrated London News, 16 May 1896, with portrait ; Athenaeum, 9 May 1896; Catalogue of Exhibition at Burlington Fine Arts Club, with introduction by Cosmo Monkhouse ; other exhibition catalogues ; Graves's Dict. of Artists ; private information.]

C. D.