William Holman

United Kingdom • 1827−1910

Biography and information

William Holman Hunt (Eng. William Holman Hunt, April 2, 1827 - September 7, 1910). English painter, one of the founders of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.

Features of the artist: The works of Hunt are notable for their special attention to symbolism, details, and bright, meaning-bearing color. Most of the paintings are based on a moralistic subtone, and are devoted to biblical and Christian allegorical themes.

Famous paintings of the artist: "Light of the world", "Hired Shepherd", "Awakened modesty", "A British family protecting a Christian missionary from the Druids", "Scapegoat".

William Holman Hunt - artist of the middle - the second half of the XIX century, who stood at the origins of the perfect special flow of art - the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. He created his own unique style, being sure that everything depicted on the canvas carries meaning, and each object is symbolic. He considered painting not only from an artistic point of view, but also saw paintings as one of the ways of preaching.

William Holman Hunt: The Beginning

William Holman Hunt was born on April 2, 1827 in London and was the third child of seven. According to church records, it is known that his father was a storekeeper in a haberdashery. In the parish book because of the error of the clerk, the future artist was recorded as Hobman, not Holman. Only much later the slip was discovered, and Hunt happily changed his name to the real one.

Hunt's parents, William Hunt and Sarah Hobman, were puritans and from childhood taught their son to certain rules of Christian life. The boy read the Bible regularly. The family did not encourage his craving for painting, and Hunt from twelve years worked as a clerk in the office, giving only free time to his beloved work.

A great influence on his work had a village of his uncle and aunt. Hunt warmly recalled his visits to the farm and the old church, which in its original state is now preserved only in his works. He created a series of drawings, which reflect the simple life of the villagers. It was here that he received the first knowledge of nature, birds, animals and flowers.

At sixteen, Hunt quits his job as a clerk, and his main task is to copy the works of famous artists and portraits to order. He made several unsuccessful attempts to enter the School of Arts at the Royal Academy of Arts and, finally, he was enrolled there. Here Hunt met with the work of the famous art theorist of the time John Reskin "Contemporary Artists". The young painter was completely captured by his ideas of high service of art and closeness to nature.

Mentor Hunt was a portrait painter popular in those years. Joshua reynolds- Founder and first president of the academy. Hunt began to actively oppose his influence, taking the first steps towards a new trend - the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.

William Holman Hunt and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood

The Brotherhood began its existence in 1948 after meeting at an exhibition at the Royal Academy of Hunt with a poet and artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Hunt helps him complete the picture "Childhood of the Virgin Mary"where the cherished abbreviation is first encountered: PRB from English: Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Among the pioneers of the new direction was also John Everett Millet. Together, the artists advocated a return to the traditions of the early Renaissance. They were convinced that this was the point of reference to which the art of the first half of the 19th century, full of dead conventions, should return.

One of the main themes of pre-Raphaelite and the dominant theme in painting Hunt is biblical. This is connected with the personal religiosity of the artist and with the desire to oppose his painting to academic rationalism, the desire to walk not only in the manner of writing, but also in the chosen subjects like the painters preceding Rafael. William Holman Hunt argued that any picture should tell the viewer much more than can be seen at first glance.

One of the most orthodox, approximate in their color and composition to early painting, can be called the work “British family, protecting the Christian missionary from the Druids” of 1850 It was exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts.

Medieval religiosity was for the most part external, but necessary for the Pre-Raphaelites. However, Hunt, as an ideologue and faithful keeper of the concept of a new trend, put a truly deep meaning into his works, studying the spiritual component. One of such fundamental creations is the painting “The Light of the World”. This is the concentration of the depths of Christian doctrine in one canvas: Christ is the Light of the world and salvation, knocking on the closed door overgrown with ivy is the human soul. In addition to the general global idea of awakening the soul through contact with God, every detail of the picture is full of symbols and secret meaning.

Among the works of Hunt on theological themes can be distinguished an important direction for him: paintings, parables. One of the well-known canvases on this topic is “The Hired Shepherd” - a pastoral scene with a philosophical meaning, a free interpretation of the Gospel words of Christ about the difference between a true shepherd and a hired shepherd.

“Awakened modesty” is one of the “moralizing” paintings by Hunt, where, through a familiar genre scene, using everyday objects as symbols, the author shows a sudden awakening of a lost soul.

In the mid-1850s, Hunt made several trips to Palestine in order to study biblical nature, clothing, people, and "Make the most clear teaching of Christ in his canvases"as the artist himself wrote.

Like many representatives of the Pre-Raphaelites, Hunt at the beginning of his career suffered blows from critics who found his work clumsy and unattractive. But the style subsequently developed and the moralizing tone of his paintings made him popular in Victorian England.

Holman Hunt: the personal life and legacy of the artist

Hunt was engaged for some time with Annie Miller, the model who posed for pre-Raphaelite artists. But the girl's connection with Rossetti served as a gap not only between her and her fiancé, but also between the two artists.

Then Hunt married Fanny Wo, who inspired the author to create an image Isabella. Unfortunately, their marriage was short-lived, since the girl died in Italy during childbirth. Hunt completed the tombstone for the spouse and made a donation to have her name engraved on the bowl in the cathedral of St. Mark in Florence. The second wife of the artist was Edith - sister of Fanny. In order to conclude this marriage, Hunt was forced to go abroad, since in England this kind of relationship was prohibited. The act of the painter caused bewilderment and became the reason for the conflict between him and other representatives of the Brotherhood.

Victorian society is accustomed to perceive the paintings as a stylish interior decoration and a sign of good taste. The depth of Hunt's works, the ability to interpret them and find new meanings for themselves made his paintings attractive and curious. However, due to the opinion of the artist, there was no response and spiritual perception. True interest in the work of Hunt was only at the end of the twentieth century among English art critics and critics.

Contemporaries perceived Hunt more as a preacher than an artist, and the author himself wrote that "The artist, he, as the high priest or interpreter of the Creator's affairs". Colleagues found that among the Pre-Raphaelites in reality he was the most religious person. At the same time, researchers cannot relate it to any confession, since Hunt was in constant spiritual search.

Hunt left behind not only artistic, but also a written legacy - this is the work “Pre-Raphaelitism and the Brotherhood of the Pre-Raphaelites”. Important for understanding the ideas and intentions of the artist is his correspondence with like-minded John Reskin and members of the Brotherhood.

By the end of his life, Hunt had comprehended the affliction, the worst for the artist — his sight had deteriorated. Last job "Lady of Shallot"helped him finish Edward Hughes. Hunt died on September 7, 1910 and was buried in the cathedral of Sts. Paul's in London.