Boy and Butterfly


William Morris Hunt (American 1824–1879)




Oil on canvas


50 1/4 x 30 1/4 in. (127.6 x 76.8 cm)


In its thematic and stylistic duality, William Morris Hunt’s Boy with a Butterfly is typical of the type of figure paintings that enjoyed immense popularity in Europe and America beginning in the early 1870s. Here, Hunt combined several types of artistic subject matter: portraiture (the artist’s nephew is believed to have posed for the figure); genre (that is, a scene of everyday life, in this case a little boy at play); and allegory (the elusive butterfly representing fleeting youth, the fragility of life, etc.). Stylistically, the pose and nudity of the human form is derived from classical prototypes, but it is rendered in the looser, less tangible technique of contemporary, avant-garde European art.

Credit Line

Bequest of the Estate of William Morris Hunt II, 2004

Object Number