Friday, September 29, 2006

Art Blogging: William Holman Hunt

The Pre-Raphaelites are an acquired taste, but one that I am gradually acquiring. They are, by self-definition, antagonistic to my Neoclassical preferences. But they merit our thanks for at least introducing new subject matter into the visual arts. Where they lose me is where, in the case of Burne-Jones and Rossetti, they abandon the beauty of the Academics' figure studies for the sake of Medieval two-dimensionality.

But when they can take the best of the Academic human figure and synthesize it with their own ideas, we can find great beauty. Such is the case of William Holman Hunt (1827-1910), a devout Christian and native of London. Hunt worked as an office clerk while studying drawing and portraiture in the evenings. Many of his works were moral allegories reflective of his stern Christianity (as best seen here). They eventually attracted Rossetti's attention, and Hunt became a founding member of the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood.

This is The Light of the World (1851-1853), now hanging at Keble College. Here we see Hunt's mastery of light, as well as an excellent representation of how Christ brings light into a world of darkness and hopelessness.

This is The Hireling Shepherd (1851), now hanging in the Manchester City Art Galleries. The colors on this canvas are particularly lively. It's a lovely display of romantic love and the 19th Century idealization of the rural peasantry.

Like every other Pre-Raphaelite painter, Hunt also drew heavily from classical English literature. This is The Lady of Shallot (1889-1892), also in the Manchester City Art Galleries. This figure in Authurian lore became famous in 19th Century Britain after Tennyson wrote a popular poem on the subject.

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