Influenced by the first generation of Hudson River School painters, William McDougal Hart would find remarkable success painting landscapes and portraits. He would also become remarkably well known for his participation in education and organizations exclusively dedicated to art. He was the first President of the Brooklyn Academy of Design and the founder of the American Watercolor Society.
Born in Scotland in 1823, Hart's family immigrated when he was eight. They settled in the Albany area and he apprenticed to a carriage painter. This was not a happy career for the talented youth and by the age of eighteen he was working as a professional portrait painter.
He began to travel during this period, and found that he was a great deal fonder of landscape painting than of portraiture, and he soon settled in New York City and opened his own studio.
He was quickly successful in his pursuit, receiving membership in the National Academy of Design in 1858, and exhibiting widely throughout the country. His works were noted for their romantic tone, and for their delicate brushwork. His abilities with atmospheric effects and reflections of light and water also placed him in the category of the early Luminists.
His works are in the collections of many major museums, including the Albany Institute of History and Art, the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.