William Morris Hunt (1824-1879 )

Born in Brattleboro, Vermont, William Morris Hunt spent much of his youth in New Haven, Connecticut. Ill health ended a three-year enrollment at Harvard College, where he had studied sculpture with Henry Kirke Brown (1814-1886). In 1843 he left for Europe, eventually enrolling at the Dusseldorf Academy in Germany. Tiring of its rigid approach to art, Hunt soon departed for France, where he entered the atelier of Thomas Couture (1815-1879). The French instructor was less strict than his German counterparts but still highly structured in his teaching methods. The disenchanted Hunt eventually found his way into the circle of the French Barbizon landscape painters, becoming especially close to Jean Francoise Millet (1814-1875).

Hunt returned to the United States in 1855, settling first in Newport, Rhode Island, and later in Boston, where he became important as both a painter and teacher. He was a powerful artistic force, bringing Boston into contact with European art, particularly that of the Barbizon School. By 1859 Hunt had become a very successful portrait painter. In the years just after the Civil War his commissions reached a peak. His strong aliation with Boston probably led to his being selected to paint this posthumous military portrait of the Boston-born William Madigan. The work was commissioned by Massachusetts Governor John A. Andrew during the Civil War and is one of several portraits done by Hunt of Civil War heroes.

William Madigan served in the Ninth Regiment of the Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, also known as the "Irish North." He was killed on June 27, 1862, at the age of thirty-six in the Battle of Chickahominy in Gaines Mill, Virginia. A contemporary account of his regiment recorded:

SOURCE: P. R. Guiney, The Irish North in Bivouac and Battle (Boston: Lee and Shepard, 1867), pp. 63-64

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