William Holman Hunt was a member of the 19th century artistic group the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, more commonly referred to as the Pre-Raphaelites. Hunt was an English painter, like most of the other Pre-Raphaelites, and thought that art should return to the aesthetic qualities held dear in the Renaissance by artists such as intricate detail and the use of bold colors. Holman painted many different subjects and themes throughout his life, everything ranging from landscapes to still life to religious subjects. The works that always received the most acclaim, and those that are best remembered today, are those that depict a religious scene or else have a strong religious backing to it.
One of Hunt’s most famous paintings is The Light of the World. There is a lone figure in this painting, Christ, knocking on the door of a house. Christ isn’t cloaked or masked as he sometimes is in religious paintings but displayed with many of his attributes, namely the crown of thorns and halo. He also wears the white robe which he is most often shown in as well as wearing a splendid red cape that denotes his importance. The lamp he carries is the light of the world. It is to us that he brings this light. It can be any door that he is knocking on, everyone and anyone that he is trying to bring the light of the world to.
Another famous painting by Hunt isn’t quite so obviously religious though it does have moral overtones. The Awakening Conscience is another painting of his. A woman and man is in an adorned parlor. The gentleman lounges in a chair, one arm around the woman who but a moment ago had been sitting in his lap. Now she has risen, staring out a window the viewer can only see by way of the mirror on the rear wall of the room. Something within her has changed as she stares out the window directly at the viewer and makes her think that perhaps this not-so-wholesome rendezvous isn’t what she should be doing, but that her future lies elsewhere, out in the world beyond her window.Both paintings show the incredible amount of detail that Hunt was trying to bring back into the world of art. It isn’t only a figure on a pretty but plain background. Every object in the parlor room is detailed, every plant by the front stoop of the house is unique and beautiful. Bold colors, namely red, interrupt both scenes and call the attention of the viewer. Hunt’s paintings have captivated audiences with their serene beauty for generations and shall continue to do so far into the future.