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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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As a founding member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, William Holman Hunt was an influential force in a key period of British art.

It was September, 1848 when William Holman Hunt, Rossetti and Millais would set about constructing this new art movement. The work of artists such as Raphael was deemed to be "conventional and self-parading". This group wanted to return to a period before that where more feeling and imagination was used over purely academic teachings. Thus, the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was formed. See also the work of Edward Burne Jones.

Other notable painters related to, or on the fringes of, this movement included Waterhouse, Lawrence Alma Tadema and Frederic Leighton. William Holman Hunt was respected for his bold use of colour, impressive use of detail and also his use of symbolism that was a significant aspect of the movement. Hunt was also seen as the member who adhered closest to the original ambitions of the Pre-Raphaelites. He would use literature as the basis for much of his work, similar to The Lady of Shalott by Waterhouse.

In September 1848, along with D.G. Rossetti and Millais, Hunt framed the mission of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. The gathering's expressed aims were to have certifiable thoughts to express, create completely great artwork, study Nature mindfully and identify with what was immediate, genuine and sincere in past workmanship. They tried to avoid what was routine, self-parading and learned through repetition. The trio went ahead resolved to change the aesthetic foundation of Victorian England. These youthful talents valued the straightforwardness of line and huge ranges of splendid shading found in the early Italian painters before Raphael. They also admired the same style where it existed in fifteenth century Flemish craftsmanship. These were not qualities supported by the more scholastic approach the Royal Academy emphasised at that time. Instead, the Royal Academy focused on the solid light and dim shading of the Old Masters.

Thomas Combe, who turned into Holman Hunt's real benefactor was also a business consultant. In 1852 Hunt sold The Hireling Shepherd with the help of Combe. This was his first work to show his new style of typical authenticity in the Pre-Raphaelite style. He expected this work to communicate Christian thoughts. The universe of religious vision which Hunt made in The Light of the World shows his vision. He thought that all things fundamentally bear higher implications. To Hunt, the symbolical and the characteristic consolidate. Both together make up the genuine aspects of life and he demonstrated that in his work. Symbolically, Christ's lamp gives the vast majority of the brightening in this scene, which has become famous all over the world.

Hunt portrays the lamp illuminating everything around it in more than one sense. Whether it be the light of truth or of Christian regulation, it has an impact. The painting reinforces the guarantee of another day, another life once the spirit stirs to Christ. Conversely, Hunt's painting also shows that Christ himself must be the main means by which one can see Him. For the painter it involved extraordinary significance that the iconography of the photo was not based upon ministerial or old imagery, but rather he obtained the images and concepts he used in The Light of the World from the natural development of his thoughts.

According to Hunt, his aim was to ensure that his paintings were of regular figures. He didn't used complicated images or anything that a viewer of his art would have to spend too much time trying to decipher visually before they could understand the essential message in the piece. In all of his paintings, whether he is utilising plants, buildings or human figures, everything is instantly recognisable. He trusted that The Light of the World made its meaning known in the exact way that people had shaped regular dialect to express otherworldly thoughts.

The artist thought that since the imagery came naturally from the psyche, it would be quickly conceivable to any group of onlookers. This would be due to the fact that such regular imagery does not require any knowledge of iconographic customs. No one would need to be trained to understand a symbol before they could enjoy his painting or relate to it. In any case, since his strategy was different from the usual, he had worked with no certainty that his images would intrigue any other individual. The way that The Light of the World has been translated with no extra help from him persuaded Hunt that his technique had been effective. His 1853 Royal Academy shows pulled in the consideration of Thomas Fairbairn, who asked him to finish The Awakening Conscience.

Chase left England for Egypt in January 1854, putting in two years in the Holy Land. The significant painting to come about because of this stay was The Scapegoat. This painting by William Holman Hunt delineates the substitute depicted in the Book of Leviticus. On the Day of Atonement, a goat would have its horns wrapped with a length of red fabric as a symbol of the transgressions of the group. To demonstrate the separation of sin from the people, the goat would then be driven off. William Holman Hunt was associated with Ewell through his close relatives. In an early visit to his relations in 1847, Holman Hunt painted the old church, of which just the tower now stands. The vicar, Sir George Glyn, offered to purchase the artwork on the off chance that it was done well. The figures were included later. The structural subtle elements are precisely recorded and Hunt may have realized that the building was undermined. In this way he helped to preserve an aspect of Ewell's cultural records because the building was obliterated a year later.

Hunt's work was purchased by Sir George Glyn. The canvas disappeared however numerous years after the fact was found. It appeared at the Tate Gallery in their Pre-Raphaelite show of 1984. Holman Hunt did various drawings of Rectory Farm, including a perspective of the kitchen with his relative at work over the stove and the chickens pecking over the floor for sustenance. His work, A Cornfield at Ewell was painted in 1849. It was completed at his uncle's ranch, as indicated by the name. In A Day in the Country he demonstrates a couple who have recently been to visit an old woman. Slightly out of sight is Rectory Farm. Maybe the couple portrayed in the painting are actually Hunt and his better half going by his relative.

Hunt was enthusiastically resolved to guarantee outright truth in his art. He and the other Pre-Raphaelite artists stuck to their vision to stay as close to nature in the rendering of their subjects as possible. To this end, Hunt painted a large portion of the Light of the World outside by moonlight. The Scapegoat, which he did in 1854, was painted close to the Dead Sea on the first of Hunt's many voyages to the Holy Land.