Hunt moved in circles that included William Jame, and Emerson. Emerson had said "For myself I do not care to be painted. I sit to oblige my family and friends." Such folk William Morris Hunt called 'persuaded sitters,' and about them Hunt said----
"I don't like persuaded sitters. I could never paint a cat if the cat had any scruples, religious, superstitious, or otherwise, about sitting."
Knowlton's biography of Hunt is the principle one today. Her analysis of Hunt gives us a glimpse into 19th century society as well as art:
By his marriage, in 1855, with Miss Louisa Dumeresq Perkins of Boston, he entered at once into the charmed circles of what was considered the best society of the city.....and scores of others scarcely less noted. Had he been a lawyer or a statesman he would have taken rank with the first....
"If aristocracy means the best, then the more aristocracy the better." Hunt had all the elements of greatness; but his work was to lie in a direction that was comparatively new to the American mind. People sought him for his brilliant conversational powers, his originality of thought and action, and his rare wit. What "Hunt said" was on every tongue. Enjoyable as all this was, perhaps it was not the life most to be desired for the fostering of genius. Men like Barye, the great French sculptor, — a man of Titanic power; and Millet, the masterly painter of French peasants,—their character and surroundings; to say nothing of Corot, Daubigny, and the rest, — all these were living humbly and seriously, and for their art alone.
Had Hunt remained in Europe he would have left a name second to none. By his return to America he entered upon a career that was difficult, depressing, and wearisome. There was no one here to whom he could look up as to a superior. He had known all the great artists of Europe. Here there were none that could feed his artistic hunger and thirst. Like all noble souls, he found consolation in helping those who needed encouragement and assistance.
We have a glimpse into 19th century society, art, and a woman's heart