William B. Hoyt
“There is a challenge and a joy in seeing something ineffably beautiful or moving and resolving to make a painting of it. The threads of the canvas, the sea, Vermont, family, friends, and Maine have woven themselves inextricably into my psyche and my work. Sometimes I go looking, often early in the morning or toward the end of the day, after the harsh light softens. Other times a subject recommends itself unsolicited with the realization that a painting is staring me in the face. No matter the motivation or the circumstance, to me painting is a kind of meditation, and that keeps me focused on the chosen subject.”
I was born in October 1945 in New Haven, Connecticut. The following summer my father, who had returned from the war in the Pacific, took our growing family on a sailing trip up the coast of New England to explore his options. He found his metier in Newport, Rhode Island at St. George’s School where his Doctorate in English from Yale put him in good stead as the chair of the english department.
My mother, Kitty, had attended Yale Art school and she became an accomplished portraitist, working on commissions from Newport’s distinguished families. Newport boasted a vibrant art association, occupying the former home of John Griswold, a China trade merchant. I recall often walking there after school to visit my mother in her studio, drawing for hours while she worked on her latest portrait.
As a teenage student at St. George’s, I discovered a mentor for my inchoate artistic vision in Richard Grosvenor. He taught watercolor, oil painting, and art history with infectious enthusiasm. After I took all the art courses offered, Dick and I just went out painting together, beginning an artistic friendship that continues today. However, a field trip to the Fogg Art Museum as a young student to see Andrew Wyeth’s dry brush watercolors cinched the deal for me. I was going to be an artist too.
Beyond the canvas lay the sea. My father was a lover of boats and we became a sailing family of the first order. His love of sailing drew him to ocean racing, and he crossed the Atlantic 23 times, making quite a name for himself in sailing circles. The summer after my high school graduation I joined him and 11 others on a 50-foot boat named Ondine in the transatlantic race to England.
In 1963 after many sailing and foreign journeys, I enrolled at Yale and discovered an entirely different art world. The chairman of the art department was the New York abstract expressionist Jack Tworkov. Also, though he had recently departed from Yale, Josef Albers’ influence remained in the teaching of color theory by Sewall Sillman and painting by Richard Lytle. I was particularly affected by Walker Evans, the Depression era photographer who collaborated on James Agee’s book, ”Let Us Now Praise Famous Men.” Evans came out from New York on the train on Tuesdays and spent individual time with each of his students, looking at our efforts and sharing his expertise and wisdom.
I graduated in 1967, married shortly thereafter, had my first solo show at the Newport Art Association, got my draft notice, joined the Navy, went to OCS, was stationed in Italy with the commander of the Sixth Fleet, and embarked on the USS Littlerock. While enlisted, I painted portraits of both the admirals under whom I served and produced a portfolio of 25 paintings of Fleet activities.
After the service, I divorced and moved to Vermont. In the early 1970′s, finally free of the limitations of various institutions and conventional society, my Vermont friends and I began to explore an alternative, communal lifestyle, encouraging each other in our different endeavors. I discovered that I liked building with wood and along with a friend moved to Barnard to build a “cabin” for a Newport couple I knew who owned land there. During this time I remarried, and in 1973 my daughter Gwen was born. She started life in a bureau drawer in the house still under construction. After it was finished we bought another old house in Barnard, Vermont, built in 1820, and I went back to painting.
The next four years found me painting in Vermont, accepting portrait commissions and exhibiting there and in Newport, RI. I then commenced, after a second divorce, to travel and paint for several years, eventually returning to Vermont and buying land in Hartland where I live with my wife, Kathy.
I was also sailing again with a friend, Spencer Field, over in Maine. Talking in the outfield during a summer softball game, we discovered our mutual interest; moreover, he had a sailboat in Round Pond, Maine and he was having trouble finding crew for it. A 32 foot Concordia Galaxy sloop, built in 1961 before boatbuilders had figured out that the new fiberglass didn’t need to be as thick as wood, the sloop is a sturdy vessel with a cast iron keel bolted onto it.
After sailing with him and painting a few summers on the coast, I accumulated enough paintings of Maine to look for a gallery there. A friend recommended Maine’s Massachusetts House, north of Camden on Route 1 past Lincolnville Beach. I stopped in and met the owner, Ernie Schoeck, a retired police officer from Brooklyn, New York. He was agreeable to my work, and I signed on and started sending him paintings. This was in the early 90′s. Before long Charles Cawley, the president of MBNA, a new credit card company, was frequenting the gallery and buying much of my work. Thus began a patronage that lasted almost a decade and encouraged me to spend more and more time in Maine doing large oil paintings that went into corporate spaces in Maine, New York, Delaware and Florida.
Today I continue to work daily and am fortunate to have respectful friendships with the galleries that represent me.