Born in Fareham in 1797, Hart moved to Southampton in 1825 and lived in the town until his death in 1881. He produced many fine watercolours and oils (image 2) of the town, the seascape and surrounding area. His style was atmospheric and very much influenced by J M W Turner, of whom he was a great admirer. He also produced some fine lead pencil drawings of local landscapes (image 3). His work is one of the best sources for how the Southampton area looked in the early to mid-19th century.

‘Townsman’ tells us that Hart lived at Laurel Cottage in Hill Lane for a time, although street directories of the 1870s have him at Prospect Place in Above Bar.

He took an interest in the artistic, social and athletic life of the town. He excelled at cricket and had a fine tenor voice. He was one of the founders of the local Mechanics’ Institution, later known as the Polytechnic. His circle of friends included John Bullar, Dr Francis Cooper and the Reverend James Crabb. He was friendly with fellow artists William Shayer and Tobias Young.

1. Thomas Gray Hart

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Portrait by unknown artist.

2. The South-East Tower, Town Quay

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Oil painting by Thomas Gray Hart

3. Artesian Well, The Common

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Thomas Gray Hart’s drawing of the Common, showing the workings of the artesian well, c.1840

Further reading:
Southampton Occasional Notes, by ‘Townsman’, p79-80. (HS/h)
Antient Southampton, by William Burrough Hill (exhibition catalogue, 1897). (HS/d)


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