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, Devon, on 8 March 1873, the second of three children of the highly regarded writer and geologist, Arthur Roope Hunt, and his wife, Sarah (née Gumbleton), who was born in Waterford, Ireland. He was educated at Winchester and Trinity College, Cambridge, studying Classics and Law, and being called to the Bar in 1899 (as had his father before him). 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 London 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 Rhône Valley, Northern Italy, Rome and Taormina.
In 1903, Hunt married Phyllis Lucas, and they would have two sons. From 1911, they lived at Mallord House, on the corner of Mallord Street and Old Church Street, Chelsea, which was especially designed by 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, in Devon.
During the First World War, Hunt was employed at the Home Office, first in connection with Irish prisoners interned in England following the Sinn Fein’s Rebellion in 1916, and later assisting the Committee for Employment of Conscientious Objectors.
Hunt showed work regularly at the Royal Academy of Arts (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 Royal Society of British Artists 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 on 5 August 1965, he was the subject of a large memorial show at the Royal Society of Painters in Water-Colours.
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.
His work is represented in the collection of the Royal Watercolour Society and numerous public collections, including the V&A.