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Hunt, Cecil Arthur

Cecil Arthur Hunt, VPRWS RBA (1873-1965). Once elected a full member of the Royal Society of Painters in Water-Colours in 1925, Cecil Arthur Hunt retired from his career as a barrister and turned his serious pastime of painting into a profession. 

While he had first established himself as a painter of mountains, especially the Alps and the Dolomites, he soon proved himself a master of a great variety of topographies. The impressive, often stark, effects that he achieved rival those associated with his friend and mentor, Frank Brangwyn.

Cecil Arthur Hunt was born in Torquay on 8 March 1873, the son of the highly regarded writer and geologist, Arthur Roope Hunt. He was educated at Winchester and Trinity College, Cambridge, studying Classics and Law, and being called to the Bar in 1899. He treated painting and writing as serious pastimes until 1925, when he was elected to the full membership of the Royal Society of Painters in Water-Colours. He then relinquished his legal career to become a professional painter.

Hunt had first exhibited in 1900, at the Alpine Club Galleries, and had held his first major show a year later, alongside E Home Bruce at the Ryder Gallery. From the first, he established himself as an atmospheric painter of mountains, especially of the Alps and Dolomites. However, he was soon accepted as a master of a great variety of topographies, for he exhibited the products of his wide travels frequently and extensively. Favourite destinations included the West Country, the West Coast of Scotland, the Rhone Valley, Northern Italy, Rome and Taormina. From 1911, until his death, Hunt lived at Mallord House in Chelsea, especially designed for him by Sir Ralph Knott to include a large studio on the ground floor. During the summer months he and his family retreated to the farm estate of Foxworthy, on the edge of Dartmoor.

Hunt showed work regularly at the Royal Academy (from 1912), the Royal Society of British Artists (from 1914) and the Royal Society of Painters in Water-Colours (from 1918). He was elected a member of the RBA in 1914, an associate of the RWS in 1919, and a full member six years later. He acted as the Vice-President of the RWS for a three-year period from 1930. His many substantial solo shows included six at the Fine Art Society (1919-34) and one at Colnaghi’s (1945). Following his death, he was the subject of a large memorial show at the Royal Society of Painters in Water-Colours.

His work is held in the V& A Museum, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, Leeds City Art Gallery and many provincial galleries.

Chris Beetles has done much to revive interest in the work of Cecil Arthur Hunt. He mounted a large scale retrospective exhibition in 1996 at his London gallery, on the exact site of the artist’s first substantial show in 1901. The retrospective was accompanied by a definitive catalogue.

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