William Holman Hunt
by Paul Ripley
Hunt, a founder of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was born in London, the son of a warehouse manager. Throughout his life he was a devout Christian. He was also serious minded, & lacking in a sense of humour. Hunt joined the Royal Academy Schools in 1844, where he met Millais & Rossetti, &, in fact brought them together. In 1854 Hunt decided to visit the Holy Land, to see for himself the genuine background for the religious pictures he intended to paint. The first tangible results of this journey were two paintings, “The Scapegoat,’ & ( ‘ The Finding of the Saviour in the Temple,’ which was exhibited nationally to great acclaim in 1860, & sold for the sum of 5,500 guineas, Hunt was advised on the price by Charles Dickens.) This sale, which included the copyright established the painter both financially, & artisticly. Hunt’s famous picture ‘The Light of the World,’ was one of the greatest Christian images of the 19th & early 20th centuries. Hunt worked at night on this picture, in an unheated shelter in a wood near Ewell in Surrey.
Hunt did not have the natural talent of Millais, or the intellect & vision of Rossetti. He made up for this by sheer hard work & commitment. He could have been a very successful portrait painter had he chosen to be so. In later years, as his sight started to fail, perhaps, his colours became increasingly harsh. He was still capable of great things, however, as shown by his wonderful late picture ‘The Lady of Shallott, surely one of the most powerful Pre-Raphaelite images.
In his last years Hunt became the patriach of Victorian painting. He was awarded the Order of Merit by King Edward VII in 1905. Hunt married firstly Fanny Waugh, & after her death in childbirth her younger sister Edith. He was also a far more attractive personality than is generally supposed, with a wide range of interests, which included horse racing & boxing. He died in 1910.
Source: Victorian Art in Britain