James McDougal Hart (May 10, 1828 - October 24, 1901), was a Scottish-American landscape and cattle painter of the Hudson River School. His older brother, William Hart, was also a Hudson River School artist, and the two painted similar subjects.
Hart was born in Kilmarnock, Scotland, and was taken to America with his family in early youth. In Albany, New York he trained with a sign and carriage maker—possibly the same employer that had taken on his brother in his early career. Unlike his brother, however, James returned to Europe for serious artistic training. He studied in Munich, and was a pupil of Friedrich Wilhelm Schirmer in Düsseldorf.
Hart returned to America in 1853. He exhibited his first work at the National Academy of Design in 1848, became an associate in 1857 and a full member in 1859. James Hart was particularly devoted to the National Academy, exhibiting there over a period of more than forty years, and serving as vice president late in his life from 1895 to 1899. Like his brother, James also exhibited at the Brooklyn Art Association (he lived for a time in Brooklyn) and at major exhibitions around the country.
Along with most of the major landscape artists of the time, Hart based his operations in New York City and adopted the style of the Hudson River School. While James Hart and his brother William often painted similar landscape subjects, James may have been more inclined to paint exceptionally large works. An example is The Old Homestead (1862), 42 x 68 inches, in the collection of the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia. James may have been exposed to large paintings while studying in Dusseldorf, a center of realist art pedagogy that also shaped the practices of Albert Bierstadt and Worthington Whittredge. William Hart, who did not seek academic European training, seems to have been more comfortable painting small and mid-sized works.
Like his brother William, James excelled at painting cattle. Kevin J. Avery writes, "the bovine subjects that once distinguished [his works] now seem the embodiment of Hart's artistic complacency." (p. 250 in American Drawings and Watercolors in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Volume I: A Catalogue of Works by Artists Born Before 1835) In contrast with the complacency of some of his cattle scenes, his major landscape paintings are considered important works of the Hudson River School. A particularly fine example is Summer in the Catskills, now in the Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection in Madrid, Spain.
James Hart was survived by two daughters, both figure painters, Letitia B Hart (b. 1867) and Mary Theresa Hart (b.1872).
The younger brother of William Hart, James moved with his family from Kilmarnock, Scotland to Albany, NY in 1830. There he was apprenticed to a sign painter and developed an interest in art. In 1851 he went to Dusseldorf, Germany to study and remained for three years. He returned to Albany and opened a studio. In 1857 he moved to New York City. later moving to Brooklyn. After the 1870s, he and his brother William opened studios in Keene Valley, NY, in the heart of the Adirondacks.
He became an associate member of the National Academy of Design in 1857, a full member in 1859, and served as vice-president for a time. Hart exhibited at the National Academy from 1862 to 1900. He also exhibited at the Brooklyn Art Association (1863-1883), the Boston Art Club (1873, 1875), the American Art Union, and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (1867-1883). He also exhibited at the Centennial Expo, 1876 (medal); Mechanics Institute, Boston (gold); and the Paris Expo, 1889 (medal).
Sinclair Hamilton noted that James and his brother William "painted in a language intelligible for the artistically illiterate."
His children, Robert, Mary , and Letitia were artists, as was his wife, Marie Thereas Gorsuch, and his sister, Julie Hart Beers Kempson.
His last known address was Brooklyn, NY. An auction of his paintings was held at the Fifth Avenue Art Gallery in 1902, and 146 of his paintings were sold for a total of $20,287.
His works are in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Museum, the New York State Historical Assocation, the Corcoran Gallery, and Vassar College.