Unlike many artists whose careers start in impoverished conditions William Morris Hunt came from one of the most eminent families in Vermont. They owned a lot of land there and co-founded the place. His father the Hon. Jonathon Hunt was a Congressman and his mother came from a wealthy family but it was his father's untimely death from cholera that started William on the road to success in the art world.
Forbidden to paint and draw by her overbearing father William's mother wanted her children to have the opportunity she missed. Following her husband's death she took the family to Switzerland, the South of France and Rome. William studied art under the painter Couture in Paris but it was his meeting with Millet that influenced the rest of his life and from whom he learnt the principles of the Barbizon School. He learnt a lot from Millet and for a short time they painted and sketched together.
When He returned to the United States in 1855 he opened an Art School in Newport, Rhode Island before he moved to Boston in 1862 and married a wealthy society wife. It was in Boston he achieved fame as a painter and became a great influence on other painters giving Talks on Art which were very popular.
Many of his paintings and sketches were destroyed in the Great Boston Fire of 1872 but his works are exhibited in museums throughout Europe and the United States.
William Morris Hunt's death in 1879 is one of the great mysteries of the art world. He had gone to the artists community in Appledore on the Isle of Shoals in New Hampshire to visit Cecilia Thaxter and whilst there he was drowned. There were many rumours that he had actually committed suicide but no-one will ever know the truth.