John Barr Clarke Hoyte developed an intensely personal style of painting, marked by a characteristic use of deep bright blue to depict shadows and contours of the landscape. He has been credited as one of the first artists to transform the topographical landscape into a more subjective art form.
It is doubtful that he received formal training as a painter. Prior to his arrival in New Zealand, Hoyte spent five years in the West Indies during the late 1850s before returning to England where he married, migrating to Auckland in 1861. He was Assistant Master at the Church of England Grammar School at least from 1863, then Drawing Master 1868 – 1869. In 1869 Hoyte was appointed Drawing Master at the newly opened Auckland College and Grammar School.
Hoyte was one of the three people who founded the Auckland Society of Artists in 1870. He exhibited work at the society until 1877. He supported himself by teaching, selling paintings in shops and hotels as well as galleries.
Hoyte moved to Dunedin in 1876 and exhibited with the first three shows of the Otago Art Society. The artist made many excursions around New Zealand painting ‘unique regions’ including a well-known series of the Pink and White Terraces before the Tarawera eruption. His larger works were painted in studio, developed from studies made outdoors on a small scale.
Before leaving New Zealand in 1879, Hoyte was awarded a silver medal by the Melbourne Society of Artists “in recognition of his peculiar claims as an artist of undoubted merit.” In 1880 he became the first president of the Art Society of New South Wales. Although Hoyte lived for another 34 years in Australia after only 18 years in New Zealand, he seems to have always been regarded in Australia as a New Zealand painter. Hoyte exhibited less in his old age and like his contemporary Charles Blomfield, could never accept new developments in painting. His obituary notice read; “It is as a portrayer of the scenic beauties of the Dominion that he will long be remembered.”