English painter, one of the founders of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in 1848. His paintings, characterized both by a meticulous attention to detail and a clear moral and religious symbolism, include The Awakening Conscience (1853; Tate Gallery, London) and The Light of the World (1854; Keble College, Oxford).
Hunt's works are both intensely realistic and symbolic. The Shadow of Death, for example, a minutely detail depiction of a biblical carpenter's workshop, shows a shadow of the Crucifixion cast on the workshop wall by the stretched arms of Jesus. Obsessed with exact historical and archaeological detail, particularly for his religious works, Hunt visited Palestine and Syria in 1854, producing The Scapegoat (1856), with a meticulous study of the scenery around the Dead Sea; and The Finding of Our Saviour in the Temple (1860; Birmingham City Art Gallery).
He also painted scenes of contemporary life, including A Hireling Shepherd (1852) and Strayed Sheep (1852). Throughout his career he remained the most fervent adherent to the Pre-Raphaelite conception of ‘truth to nature’.
Hunt was born in London. He joined the Royal Academy schools in 1844 and first exhibited at the Academy in 1846. He met John Millais and Dante Gabriel Rossetti in 1848, and all three quickly became involved in founding the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. At this period he was strongly influenced by John Ruskin's book Modern Painters. His earlier pictures – many of them scenes from literature – include Rienzi (1848); Valentine and Sylvia (1851), greatly praised by Ruskin; and Claudio and Isabella (1853). His style changed little during his career, though he turned more and more to religious scenes. He received the Order of Merit and was buried in St Paul's.
His book Pre-Raphaelitism and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (1907) gives a clear account of his ideals and the history of the movement.
Hunt, (William) Holman
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