As a young apprentice to a carriage maker in Albany, New York, William Hart began his career painting elegant, horse-drawn vehicles. By age eighteen, he was producing portraits. Eventually, he became a landscape painter and is counted among the group of artists known as the Hudson River School.
Hart's family had settled in Albany in 1831, emigrating from Paisley, Scotland, where he was born. As other portrait artists of his day, young Hart traveled extensively, finding work in New York, Michigan, and Virginia. By 1854, he was successful enough to open a studio in New York City and eventually settled in nearby Brooklyn.
In the 1860s and 1870s Hart's paintings were exhibited in Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington. He became known for peaceful views of rural scenery that reflect the influence of Asher B. Durand, the leading landscape artist at the time.
An active member of the New York art community, Hart was the first president of the Brooklyn Academy of Design. He also served as a president of the American Watercolor Society, which he helped to found.
[This is an excerpt from the interactive companion program to the videodisc American Art from the National Gallery of Art. Produced by the Department of Education Resources, this teaching resource is one of the Gallery's free-loan educational programs.]