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William Holman Hunt

Pre-Raphaelite painter and designer (1827 - 1910)

William Holman Hunt was the son of a warehouse manager, who discouraged his interest in painting as a career and put him to work as a clerk in the City when he was 12. Hunt received some painting lessons and painted portraits with success, which resulted in his taking up art at 16. He entered the Royal Academy Schools as a probationer in July where he met John Everett Millais (1829-96) and later Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-82). He read avidly and became critical of the conventions of current art.

The publication of John Ruskin’s (1819-1900) book, 'Modern Painters', in 1847 was fundamental to Hunt's determination to go back to the careful study of nature in his paintings and to bring a serious and thoughtful approach to the subject matter.

Hunt had begun exhibiting at the Royal Academy in 1846. He chose religious, Shakespearian or contemporary subjects with strong moral themes. He struggled for income and recognition; he gained the £50 Liverpool Academy prize in 1852. He then realised his ambition of visiting the Holy Land to paint biblical subjects on the spot at a period.

Hunt exhibited with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood at Russell Place in 1857 and became a member of the Hogarth Club in 1858. His later work was larger in scale and broader in technique. He remained outside the Royal Academy and showed his major works individually, exhibiting also at the Grosvenor Gallery and the Old Watercolour Society in London, as well as at the Liverpool Autumn Exhibition.

He was isolated from contemporary trends by furthertrips abroad, including a visit to Italy between 1866 - 7, Palestine between 1868 - 72 and 1875 - 77, and later Italy, Greece and Palestine 1892. He thus became chiefly noted for his iconographically original religious paintings. He became spokesman of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood after Rossetti’s death. Hunt died 7 September 1910 and was buried in St Paul’s Cathedral.
  • Gender
  • Relationship
    Artist/maker, Previous owner
  • Nationality
    British: English
  • Born
  • Place of birth
    Europe: Northern Europe: UK: England: London: Cheapside: Wood Street, Love Lane
  • Died
  • Place of death
    Europe: Northern Europe: UK: England: Merseyside: Liverpool: Kensington, Melbury Road
  • Cause of death
    Emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and respiratory and cardiac failure.
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