The light of the world

William Holman Hunt • Painting, 1853, 49.8×26.1 cm
Digital copy: 1.8 MB
1410 × 2952 px • JPEG
26.1 × 49.8 cm • 137 dpi
23.9 × 50.0 cm • 150 dpi
11.9 × 25.0 cm • 300 dpi
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About the artwork
Art form: Painting
Subject and objects: Religious scene
Style of art: The Pre-Raphaelites
Technique: Oil
Materials: Canvas
Date of creation: 1853
Size: 49.8×26.1 cm
Artwork in selections: 34 selections
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Description of the artwork «The light of the world»

"I am the light of the world; he who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life" (Jn. 8:12) is the proclamation of Christ himself in the words of the Evangelist John, inspired Holman hunt to create the first large-scale religious paintings in his work. "Light of the world" ("light of the world") - his most famous work, which was carried out in three variants in 1853, 1854 and 1904.

"Light of the world": sermon on the canvas

"Light of the world" is the image of Christ to his full height, knocking at the closed door, symbolizing the human soul. The door obviously had not been opened — it is overgrown with ivy, and dry grass. There are no handles, so to open it on the external side impossible. Open the door with the person inside — the person who chooses their path in life. This artistic technique hunt has clearly shown that the desire to escape and to be with Christ is a personal decision and the freedom of choice that God has given to man. Christ can only gently knock, remind yourself without a shadow of irritation or order.

The surrounding nature is matched by the artist with special meaning. At the feet of Christ growing shoots of blackberries is a sign that there is no long foot the gardener. In the grass lie rotten apples and so fruit trees abandoned. Over an overgrown door flies a bat — a symbol of light and fear of death. But the morning star appears next to the Christ, meaning the coming of a new day and a new life.

"Thy word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path" (PS.118:105) — the words of the prophet David, which may have the basis for the hunt, depicting in the left hand of Christ on the lamp, saving light in the middle of the night of sin and unbelief. There is an opinion that each of the seven facets of it symbolizes the Christian Church, which are equal, because both serve one purpose — meeting God and man. Circuit from the lamp, the wound on the hand of the Saviour, shows the viewer the inseparable connection of Christ and the Church.

The Saviour is dressed in a white robe on top of it — Royal scarlet — festive outerwear kings and emperors is purple, decorated with precious stones and gold embroidery. On His head the Royal crown, which is crown of thorns. Its branches sprout greens, making it clear that even the most hopeless soul can bear the fruit of the spirit in contact with God. The viewer is the King of Kings in the same form in which It appeared at the trial before Pilate: "And put on Him a purple robe, and platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head" (Matt 27:28). The Savior in all his glory never ceases to bear your cross and to sacrifice himself for the sake of the soul, timidly hiding behind the door.

Christ's countenance expresses sorrow and humility, eyes focused, lips compressed. The movement of the right hand of the Savior — restrained and neat. That is how the artist gave this quiet, delicate, but most likely in vain knock. Overgrown around the house — the starry night and interwoven branches of trees, creating a sense of completeness to the composition. The artist initially planned to portray a daily scene, but his fascination with night lighting changed plans. In order to accurately portray the night, hunt made journeys in Surrey and in the open air studied the penetration of moonlight through the trees. I finished painting it in the Studio where everyday items has created the necessary conditions. The night gives the scene a special mystique and sacredness, even more highlighting and making brighter the figure of Christ.

Christ takes up almost the entire space of the canvas, it realistic, it feels human, physical beginning. It was a peculiar contrast to the traditional academic art, where all the divine was taken to represent the maximum idealized and divorced from life. But besides the protest, hunt pursued his preaching idea: to explain, to prove and show a really existing Jesus Christ.

The artistic legacy of paintings of hunt's "light of the world"

Hunt noted in his correspondence that when creating the paintings did not seek to use ancient Christian symbols, as if they served a different idea and goal. He believed that simple natural signs clearly explain the meaning of work to modern audiences. But it was not so. His painting was seen as another, though an unusual but attractive canvas. The audience in England of the mid-nineteenth century were not accustomed to solve even obvious, but riddles, look for a clear, but hidden meaning. Besides the painting many were assessed as too bright and ridiculous. It was a frustrating hunt.

John Ruskin — critic of the new wave art, who are for clean uncomplicated artistic vision, and convinced of the didactic purpose of art in General, wrote a memo about the picture in "The Times". He praised not only the scenic aspects of this new in all senses of the cloth and its content, calling it one of the noblest works of sacred art ever produced. And Ruskin and hunt were convinced that finally the artist returned to painting its rightful place, when the picture could replace the book and icon — theology. Thanks article in the critic, the audience come to a proper understanding, and to the hunt — first success.

The next version of picture hunt wrote a year later for College Karil in Oxford. The latest version of the painting, written in 1904 for St Peter's Cathedral in London, is considered the peak of the artist's idea. She traveled the world, exhibited in different cities and countries. Prints, cards and calendars with the image of Christ with the lantern in hand became popular, appearing in homes, churches and Sunday schools.

At the bottom of the gilded frame of the painting of St. Peter's Cathedral, you can read the quote from the Apocalypse: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock, if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will sup with him, and he with Me" (Rev. 3:20). Canvas hunt like this line of Scripture is the sense of the whole earthly life of Jesus Christ.