Gloucester Harbor

about 1877
William Morris Hunt (American, 1824–1879)


53.66 x 79.06 cm (21 1/8 x 31 1/8 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Oil on canvas

Not On View





Hunt spent the summer of 1877 in Kettle Cove, a fishing village in Gloucester, north of Boston. The surrounding area stimulated him to create a series of landscape paintings, including Gloucester Harbor, which were harbingers of the taste for Impressionism that would soon infect Boston. Inspired by the late landscapes of Corot and Daubigny, which he had seen on his second trip to Europe in 1866-68 and in Boston collections, Hunt worked out-of-doors, painting this view of Gloucester harbor in just one afternoon and writing of his pleasure in capturing the particular opalescent light of the seaside. The spontaneity of his brushwork, luminescent palette, and summary indication of harbor structures make this painting one of Hunt’s most modern works.
Isabella Stewart Gardner, known for the museum she would create for her collection, purchased “Gloucester Harbor” for the handsome price of $3000 from Hunt’s estate sale. She kept the painting for thirty-four years before giving it to Hunt’s daughter for display in the newly-opened Hunt Memorial Gallery at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts.

This text was adapted from an entry by Janet Comey in Erica Hirshler, “Impressionism Abroad: Boston and French Painting,” exhibition catalogue, Royal Academy of Arts, 2005.


The artist; to estate of the artist; with Hunt Estate Sale, Feb. 23, 1880, no. 65; Mr. and Mrs. John L. Gardner, Boston, 1880; Mrs. John L. (Isabella Stewart) Gardner, by 1898; to Mrs. H.N. Slater, the artist's daughter, Readville, Mass., by 1914; to H. Nelson Slater, Mrs. Esther Slater Kerrigan, and Mrs. Ray Slater Murphy, her children; to MFA, 1944, gift of H. Nelson Slater, Mrs. Esther Slater Kerrigan, and Mrs. Ray Slater Murphy.

Credit Line

Gift of H. Nelson Slater, Mrs. Esther Slater Kerrigan and Mrs. Ray Slater Murphy in memory of their mother Mabel Hunt Slater