Painted Rooms: American Historic Interiors
Celebrated on both sides of the Atlantic for his meticulously detailed architectural paintings, English artist Michael John Hunt (b. 1941) is entirely self-taught and has an intuitive understanding of perspective that would rival the abilities of many an artist. He has exhibited around the world from Amsterdam to Dubai and counts among his collectors members of the British Royal Family as well as Washington society.
One of the most striking features of Hunt’s portraits of American historic interiors is his theatrical use of natural light: sunlight filters between wood wall panelling, spills through window panes, and pools onto floorboards by open doorways. Fleeting shadows are thus captured forever in paint. Surprisingly, Hunt creates his pictures with layered acrylics and glazes producing subtleties of light and colour that are more usually associated with oil pigments. Thus Hunt illustrates his innate artistic dexterity – the painterly equivalent of a musician’s ‘perfect pitch’.
Founded by Henry Francis du Pont, Winterthur is the premier museum of American decorative arts, reflecting both early America and the du Pont family’s life here. Its 60-acre naturalistic garden is among the country’s best, and its research library serves scholars from around the world. Over the years, Hunt has built up a considerable painted archive of the 175 period rooms on view there and, since this is one of the museums on which the American Museum in Britain was modelled, this exhibition in Bath is most appropriate. Hunt has also produced a similar collection of paintings of Wynkoop House, a fine Colonial period stone house in New York State and the largest in Marbletown, when it was built for Cornelius Evert Wynkoop in 1767. Wynkoop, of Dutch descent, was a successful merchant and served as a Major of the Minutemen of Ulster County in the American Revolution.