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James McDougal Hart, NA

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James McDougal Hart
Hudson River School Painter
American, (5/10/1828–10/24/1901)
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Kilmarnock, Scotland, James Hart was a leading figure of the second generation Hudson River School painters and was known for idyllic landscapes, especially with cows. His family emigrated to Albany, New York in 1830 when he was age two, and Hart, at age 15, apprenticed to a sign and banner painter in Albany. Later he switched to portrait painting.

At age 22, he went to Germany and enrolled in the Dusseldorf Art Academy for three years and returned to Albany where he opened a studio and taught and painted until 1857 when he established a studio in New York City. There members of the newly rich, post-Civil War society were delighted with his serene, rural landscapes. It was a time when New York "swarmed with people newly rich and feverishly eager to acquire at once the trappings and paraphernalia of culture, oil paintings included. with such clients Hart and his brother (William) found abundant employment for the painted in a language intelligible to the artistically illiterate. James garnished his landscapes with barnyard animals, chiefly cows, and painted them with such fidelity that his delighted customers thought they could distinguish the Alderneys from the Guernseys" ("Dictionary of American Biography", 356-357).

His farm family teased him about his painting of farm animals, saying he knew little about them first hand. In the 1840s and 1850s, he also painted panoramic, luminous landscapes in meticulous details with many figures including farmers and children. The idea was to suggest that rural America was an idyllic place.

Of his cow paintings, G.W. Sheldon write in "American Painters": For cows and oxen, he has the fullest sympathy. Their thoughts which are not men's thoughts, their ways, which are not men's ways, and their faces which do not depend for interest upon any human likeness or suggestion, have been the objects of his studious love. He says that he likes cattle as well as landscapes---and this, for an artist like him, is saying a great deal." (50)

Hart served as the Vice President for three years of the National Academy of Design. where he was voted a full member in 1859.

His wife was artist Marie Theresa Gorsuch, a still-life painter, and their three children became artists: Robert Gorsuch Hart, Letitia Bonnet Hart, and Mary Theresa Hart.

Letitia Falk, daughter of the artist, in materials sent by Ashley Bracken
Peter Falk, "Who Was Who in American Art"
Matthew Baigell, "Dictionary of American Art"
G.W. Sheldon, "American Painters"

Note from Letitia Hart, courtesy Ashley Bracken:
James and Marion Hart and seven of their children, including James M. Hart age 1 yr., 9 mos., and William Hart age 6 yrs., 10 mos., came from Scotland to New York on the ship, Camillus. They landed on February 12, 1830. This information comes from a hand written record at the National Archives. The year of arrival is illegible because of the poor handwriting of the clerk at the dock. The manifest lists the parents and seven children and their ages. Based upon the known birthdates of the family and the ages listed on the manifest, my arithmetic calculates that the ship arrived in 1830.

Obituary of the artist, courtesy Ashley Bracken.

"New York Herald", October 24, 1901:

James McDougal Hart, for years was President of the National Academy of Design, died at his home, No. 94 First Place, Brooklyn, Thursday from pneumonia. He had been ill 10 days. He was born in Killmarnock, Scotland, in 1828, and with his parents, came to this country when six years old and settled in Albany.

His first work was as an apprentice to a coach maker to paint and decorate carriages. In 1851, he was sent to Dusseldorf, Munich, and Leipsig. After remaining abroad several years, he returned to Albany, and moved to N.Y. Later he became an associate of the National Academy of Design and later an Academician.

Mr. Hart received several medals for his work which was exhbited at the Paris Salon.

He worked at his easel until two weeks ago, when he was taken ill. He had been a resident of the Sixth Ward for the last thirty-seven years, and was a member of the South reformed Church. A widow, son and two daughters survive him.

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