William Henry Hunt (English, 1790-1864)

“Still Life of Apples, Grapes and Ivy”

Signed “W Hunt”

Watercolor and pencil on paper

7 ½ x 11 (frame 16 x 18 ½) inches


Hunt was one of the key figures in nineteenth-century English watercolor painting. His work was extensively collected in his lifetime, particularly his genre pictures of children, often in humorous situations, and his detailed, naturalistic still lifes of fruit, flowers, and birds' nests that earned him the nickname ‘Bird’s Nest’ Hunt."


In 1806 Hunt persuaded his father to allow him to train as an artist, becoming apprenticed for a term of seven years to John Varley, the watercolorist, drawing master, astrologer, and a close friend of William Blake. Apparently Hunt made good progress under Varley's tutelage, as he exhibited three oil paintings at the Royal Academy in 1807 and continued to exhibit there for several years following. In 1808 he was admitted as a student to the Royal Academy Schools


Hunt's early work shows the influence of his teacher. Architectural subjects and country landscapes dominated his early work. Loose drawing in pencil or pen and fluid, clear color washes are the hallmarks. His subjects, especially those of his later life, are often simple; but, considered technically, his works exhibit all the resources of the watercolor painter's craft, from the purest transparent tinting to the boldest use of gouache, stippling on prepared opaque grounds, use of rough paper, and scraping for highlights and texture. His sense of color is perhaps as true as that of any English artist. In the words of the Victorian Era John Ruskin “all in all, he was the finest ever painter of still lifes.” Collections include Victoria and Albert; National Gallery, London; Metropolitan Museum of Art; Courtauld Institute, National Gallery, Washington, D.C.; San Francisco, High Museum, et. al.

“Still Life of Apples, Grapes and Ivy” William Henry Hunt (1790-1864)