Artist Biography

James M. Hart

(1828 - 1901)

Table of Contents

    A second-generation Hudson River School painter known for his pastoral and cattle scenes

    I. Biography

    James McDougal Hart was born in Kilmarnock, Scotland in 1828. His family moved to the United States when he was three years old, settling in Albany, New York. Years later, Hart apprenticed with a coach maker in Albany and learned the craft of panel and sign painting. In 1851, he went to Düsseldorf and studied briefly with landscape painter Johann Wilhelm Schirmer. Hart also studied in Munich and completed a sketching tour of the Rhine and the Tyrol regions. After returning to Albany the following year, he worked as an artist and taught painting for several years. Then, around 1856, Hart relocated to New York City and set up a studio.

    Hart came from a family of artists—his brother William and his sister Julie Hart Beers also became painters. William, the older brother, was an important influence on James’s work, and the two developed into important figures of the second generation of the Hudson River School.

    During his lifetime, Hart was known for his idyllic pastoral scenes that frequently included cattle and domestic animals.[1] The artist was committed to replicating nature as he experienced it. In 1879, Hart was quoted as saying, “I strive to reproduce in my landscapes the feeling produced by the original scenes themselves.”[2] He was so passionate about capturing the essence of cows that he conducted an in-depth study of the animals.[3] Contemporaries commented on Hart’s devotion to his art; he earned a reputation as a family man who preferred his work to socializing.[4]

    Sometime after 1870, the Hart brothers opened a studio in the Adirondacks in Keene Valley, New York. Eventually, James moved to Brooklyn, where he died in 1901. Today, his work resides in prestigious institutions including the Brooklyn Museum, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Gallery of Art, and New-York Historical Society.

    II. Chronology

    • 1828 Born in Kilmarnock, Scotland
    • 1831 Moves to United States; Hart family settles in Albany, New York
    • 1851 Studies in Düsseldorf with landscape painter Johann Wilhelm Schirmer
    • 1852–ca. 1856 Works and teaches art in Albany, New York
    • 1857 Elected an associate to the National Academy of Design
    • ca. 1856 Moves to New York, New York
    • 1859 Promoted to academician and vice president of the National Academy of Design
    • after 1870 Occupies a studio in Keene Valley, New York with brother William
    • 1901 Dies in Brooklyn, New York

    III. Collections

    • Brooklyn Museum, New York
    • The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, New York
    • The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York
    • National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
    • New-York Historical Society, New York

    IV. Exhibitions

    • Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
    • Mechanics Institute, Boston, Massachusetts, gold medal
    • 1862, 1870–1900 National Academy of Design, New York, New York
    • 1863–83 Brooklyn Art Association, New York
    • 1867–69, 1876, 1880–83 Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
    • 1873, 1875 Boston Art Club, Massachusetts
    • 1876 Centennial Exposition, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, medal
    • 1889 Paris Exposition, France, medal
    • 1888, 1904 The Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois

    V. Memberships

    • National Academy of Design, New York, New York, associate, 1857; academician, vice president, 1859
    • Union League Club, New York, New York

    VI. Notes

    1. G. W. Sheldon, American Painters: With Eighty-Three Examples of their Work Engraved on Wood (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1879), 48.
    2. As quoted in ibid., 47.
    3. Ibid., 49.
    4. Ibid., 47.

    VII. Suggested Resources

    • “American Painters.―James M. Hart.” The Art Journal (1875-1887) 1 (1875): 180–181.
    • Falk, Peter Hastings, ed. Who Was Who in American Art, 1564–1975: 400 Years of Artists in America. Vol. 2, G–O. Madison, CT: Sound View Press, 1999.
    • “James M. Hart.” Cosmopolitan Art Journal 2, no. 1 (December 1857): 30–31.
    • Sheldon, G. W. American Painters: With Eighty-Three Examples of their Work Engraved on Wood. New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1879.

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