Illustration by Hunt for The Moxon Tennyson
Holman Hunt was born in Cheapside, London, and was from the start keen to be an artist, despite discouragement from his father, a warehouseman. He gained admission to the Royal Academy Schools on his third attempt, and there met Millais and afterwards Rossetti, and together they founded the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.
Arguably, of the three, Holman Hunt was the one who stayed most faithful to the Pre-Raphaelite ideas and painting techniques, or as he put it, he never modified his 'uncompromising assertion of the principles of truth in preference to beauty'. His paintings - nearly all religious or moralistic - are characterised by extreme detail and a brightness of light that makes his colours somewhat harsh. His paintings are always interesting, but not typically pleasant or beautiful to look at. They were painted as a result of painstaking efforts, and he worked long on each one. To quote from a contemporary description of his Triumph of the Innocents:
We expected a picture. What we found was a confused but earnest and honourable achievement in literature, expressed in the most strenuous terms, with a patience, a laboriousness, a determination of symbolical intention worthy of all respect.He made various journeys to the middle east, and painted scenes of Jerusalem, along with The Scapegoat (two versions, at the Lady Lever Gallery in Port Sunlight and in Manchester), one of his best known paintings. The best known of them all is The Light of the World, which is in Keble College, Oxford, and A Converted British Family is at the Ashmolean Museum in the same city. Others of his major pictures are The Finding of the Saviour in the Temple (Birmingham), featuring East End London Jews as none in Jerusalem would sit for him; The Afterglow in Egypt - perhaps his most attractive-to-look-at painting (two versions - Lady Lever Gallery in Port Sunlight and Ashmolean), and The Awakening Concience, (Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool) his most moralistic painting. Two other famous paintings are at Manchester - The Hireling Shepherd and The Lady of Shalott.
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