Though he also painted landscapes, portraits and figures, and worked at times in oil, 19th century English artist William Henry Hunt was known primarily for his striking watercolor still life paintings.
His subjects were often fruits like grapes, apples and peaches, which he rendered with extraordinary finesse using a technique known as “wet white” — applying small stippled dots of watercolor and gouache over a background of the newly imported color “Chinese white” (zinc white gouache). The process, which produced particularly luminous colors, was taken up by many of the Pre-Raphaelite painters.
He also favored other natural still life forms, creating compositions with arrangements of fruits, nuts, twigs, small flowers and notably bird’s nests, delineated with great fidelity and detail, which earned him the appellation “Bird’s Nest” Hunt.
Hunt was an early and key member of the Society of Painters in Water Colours (later renamed the Royal Watercolour Society), and was instrumental in the establishment of the English school of watercolor painting.