Saturday, 2 June 2012

William Holman Hunt - part 1

Self-Portrait 1845 
oil on canvas 46 x 39 cm

William Holman Hunt (1827 – 1910) was born in London in 1827. He changed his middle name from "Hobman" to Holman when he discovered that a clerk had misspelled the name after his baptism at the church of Saint Mary the Virgin, Ewell. After eventually entering the Royal Academy art schools in 1844, having initially been rejected, Hunt rebelled against the influence of its founder Sir Joshua Reynolds.

He formed the Pre-Raphaelite movement in 1848, after meeting the poet and artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Along with John Everett Millais they sought to revitalise art by emphasising the detailed observation of the natural world in a spirit of quasi-religious devotion to truth. This religious approach was influenced by the spiritual qualities of medieval art.

Hunt married twice. After a failed engagement to his model Annie Miller, he married Fanny Waugh, who later modelled for the figure of Isabella. When she died in childbirth in Italy he sculpted her tomb at Fiesole, having it brought down to the English Cemetery, beside the tomb of Elizabeth Barrett Browning. His second wife, Edith, was Fanny's sister. At this time it was illegal in Britain to marry your deceased wife's sister, so Hunt was forced to travel abroad to marry her. This led to a serious breach with other family members, notably his former Pre-Raphaelite colleague Thomas Woolner, who had once been in love with Fanny and had married Alice, the third sister of Fanny and Edith.

Hunt's works were not initially successful, and were widely attacked in the art press for their alleged clumsiness and ugliness. He achieved some early note for his intensely naturalistic scenes of modern rural and urban life, such as The Hireling Shepherd and The Awakening Conscience. However, it was with his religious paintings that he became famous, initially The Light of the World (1851–1853, now in the chapel at Keble College, Oxford; a later version (1900) toured the world and now has its home in St Paul's Cathedral, London.

In the mid 1850s Hunt travelled to the Holy Land in search of accurate topographical and ethnographical material for further religious works, and to “use my powers to make more tangible Jesus Christ’s history and teaching”; there he painted The Scapegoat, The Finding of the Saviour in the Temple and The Shadow of Death, along with many landscapes of the region. Hunt also painted many works based on poems, such as Isabella and The Lady of Shalott. He eventually built his own house in Jerusalem. Hunt died in Kensington, London in 1901.

This is part 1 of a 2 - part post on the works of William Holman Hunt:


1848 The Flight of Madeline and Porphyro during the Drunkenness Attending the Revelry ( The Eve of St. Agnes ) 
oil on canvas 78 x 113 cm

1848-9 Rienzi Vowing to Obtain Justice for the Death of his Young Brother, Slain in a Skirmish Between the Colonna and the Orsini Factions   
oil on canvas 86.3 x 122 cm

1849 Cornfield at Ewell 
oil on board 20 x 32 cm 
© Tate, London 2008

1850 A Converted British Family Sheltering a Christian Missionary from the Persecution of the Druids   
oil on canvas 111 x 141 cm

c1850 Claudio and Isabella 
oil on canvas 76.2 x 42.5 cm


1851 The Hireling Shepherd 
oil on canvas 76 x 110 cm

1851- 1853 The Light of the World 
oil on canvas 49.8 x 26.1 cm

1851 Valentine Rescuing Sylvia from Proteus 
oil on canvas 98.5 x 133.3 cm

1852 Our English Coasts 
oil on canvas 43.2 x 58.4 cm

c1852-8 Fairlight Downs, Sunlight on the Sea 
oil on panel 23 x 31 cm

1853 The Awakening Conscience 
oil on canvas 76 x 56 cm

1854 The Scapegoat 
oil on canvas 87 x 139.8 cm

1854 The Shinx, Gizeh, Looking Towards the Pyramids of Sakhara

c1854-61 The Lantern Maker's Courtship, A Street Scene in Cairo 
oil on canvas 55 x 35 cm 
© Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery

1858 Henry Wentworth Monk 
oil on canvas 53.3 x 67.3 cm

1859 The School-Girl's Hymn 
oil on panel 35 x 25 cm 
© 2006 Ashmolean Museum, Oxford

1860 The Finding of the Saviour in the Temple 
oil on canvas 86 x 141 cm 
© Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery

1861 The Afterglow in Egypt 
oil on canvas 185.4 x 86.4 cm


1862 Asparagus Island, Kynance, Cornwall 
watercolour 20 x 26 cm

1864 The Children's Holiday 
oil on canvas

1865 Fairlight Downs 
pencil, watercolour and gouache 13 x 18 cm

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