The Childhood of William Morris Hunt"In her early years William Morris Hunt's mother had shown a strong desire to draw and paint but the desire met with no encouragement. When she timidly showed her father a sketch that she had made he said, "Who did that?" "I did it," was the reply. "Take it away! and, mind you, no more of this!"
|"Marguerite," 1870 by William Morris Hunt|
Later in life, now a widow with five children to educate, Hunt's mother resolved that they should have the advantages which had been denied her. An Italian artist was in the town, New Haven, looking for orders or for pupils. His name was Gambadella, and, as a political refugee, he brought letters from distinguished philanthropists.
Mrs. Hunt gave him a room in the upper part of her house and endeavored to find pupils for him, but not one could she obtain. Nothing daunted, she declared that there should be a class, and it should consist of her children and herself. The little class worked with zeal, and, at the end of the term, an exhibition of their work was given. It aroused much interest in the town and there was a general desire for lessons. "You are too late!" was her proud and happy response and no one outside of the family was admitted.
Of her children, one was Richard M. Hunt, the eminent architect of New York. Another became a physician spending his life in Paris. A third gave up his profession of lawyer at the time of our Civil War, rendering good service as a colonel of a Vermont regiment. And William Morris Hunt became a famous artist.
Mrs. Hunt sent her children to the best schools the country afforded, but still was not content. When advised to take William to a southern climate to recover from an illness, Mrs. Hunt took him to the south of France - with the rest of the family - and then to Rome where William drew and modelled in the studio of H.K. Brown the sculptor. After they had returned to Paris, he chanced to see in an art store window French artist Thomas Couture's beautiful "Falconer." He stopped before it, and exclaimed, "If that is painting, I am a painter!"
The Falconer" by Thomas Couture
*Excerpted from "The Art Life of William Morris Hunt" by Helen Mary Knowlton: https://archive.org/details/william00know/mode/2up