William Holman Hunt

1827-1910. English painter. He led the “Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood” grouping of young British artists (and literary figures) who in the mid-nineteenth century wanted to return to simple painting technique, direct study of outdoor events with detailed depiction of exactly what is there, avoiding the academistic rules of chiaroscuro lighting and the coloring virtuosity Raphael had made the trend. In search of serious subject matter, Hunt himself practiced what he preached by going to Egypt and Palestine to paint biblical scenes with authentic local settings and types of people. Although Charles Dickens attacked the Pre-Raphaelite program as arrogant presumption, Ruskin defended their work, insuring its influence in England.

Holman Hunt helped break the conventional, iconographic picturing of Christ, and paintings like his well-known The Light of the World (1854) appealed to the new middle-class patrons of the arts. But the artistic skill and sincerity of principles behind the bright colors, exactly detailed foregrounds, and choices of “elevated” topics suffer from a somewhat maudlin spirit and anecdotal bent which keeps the art tied to being period pieces, illustrational tracts for the times.