Born on Prince Edward Island, Canada, Hal Alexander Courtney Morrison enjoyed an early adulthood filled with travel and inspiration for his future career as an artist. After graduating from Harvard University’s medical school, he spent two years working as a member of the medical staff on the Intercolonial Railway. The job afforded him plenty of spare time, freeing him to do what he loved most: “I did nothing but paint and fish, and finally abandoned my profession entirely to rove over the whole world and paint what pleased me.” For the next seven years, Morrison traveled throughout Europe and studied art in Paris. He was also an avid hunter and fisherman and became “something of a taxidermist,” collecting specimens of fish and wild game to use as models.

In the early 1880s, Morrison moved to Atlanta, Georgia―ostensibly for health reasons―and established a teaching studio, offering students instruction in oil and watercolor. Best known for his still life paintings of flowers, fruit, fish, and game, Morrison painted in a highly detailed, traditional manner; and his canvases were widely admired for their photographic realism. In 1889, his paintings were displayed at the Piedmont Exposition to glowing reviews in the Atlanta Constitution: “No praise could be too high for this artist’s still life studies. They are not art, but nature in superb perfection.” Other newspaper accounts noted the artist’s impressive commissions and sales, as well as offers to relocate his studio to larger cities. Over the next decade, Morrison’s reputation grew steadily, as did his success in expositions, state fairs, and other juried shows. In contrast to his still lifes, Morrison also executed a selection of portraits, including a 1912 likeness of Langdon Cheves―the South Carolina legislator who served as Speaker of the United States House of Representatives―now held by the National Portrait Gallery.

As Morrison’s career flourished, he still found time to pursue his other passion, the outdoors. During hunting and fishing expeditions in the mountains of North Carolina and in the marshlands of Florida, he found abundant inspiration for his wildlife studies. By the late 1890s, he was spending the winter months in Florida, a landscape he described as “bewildering . . . intoxicating . . . the most beautiful country on earth.” He made at least one return visit to Canada.

Hal Morrison resided in Atlanta until 1918. Shortly after his wife’s death that year, he remarried and moved to Florida, only to return to the Atlanta area in 1927 because of an illness that required hospitalization. He died within days of being admitted to the Davis-Fischer Sanatorium in September of that year. The Atlanta Journal paid tribute to Morrison’s talents and character, describing his death as a “great loss to southern art as well as a personal loss [to] the artistic and social circles of the city.”