Hunter, who focused on modern and contemporary art, penned over 50 books and three times that many essays, museum and gallery catalogues and articles. His published works range from surveys of American modernism to monographs on 20th-century figures like Robert Rauschenberg, Larry Rivers and George Segal.
After graduating from Williams College in 1943, Hunter served in the U.S. Navy until 1946, rising to lieutenant junior grade and receiving five battle stars. He joined the New York Times as art critic in 1947, but left two years later to continue his art history studies at the University of Florence and the American Academy in Rome on a Hubbard Hutchinson Fellowship. In 1952, Hunter began his lifelong relationship with the art publishing company Harry N. Abrams, Inc., serving at various times as an editor and writer, and as vice-president and editor-in-chief in 1971-72.
His career in academia began in 1955, when he was appointed associate professor of art history at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he remained for one year. In 1956, he was named curator of painting and sculpture at New York’s Museum of Modern Art and organized the U.S. presentation at the São Paulo Bienal. In 1958, he assumed the position of chief curator and acting director at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.
In 1960, Hunter became associate professor of fine arts and founding director of the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University, Waltham, Mass. After serving as the director of the Jewish Museum from 1965 to 1969-he resigned over what he called an insufficient focus on contemporary art-Hunter was appointed curator of modern art at the Princeton University Art Museum and professor in the school’s department of art and archaeology, where he taught until 1991.