William Holman Hunt (1827-1910) was one of the founders of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. After eventually entering the Royal Academy art schools, after having initially been rejected, Hunt rebelled against the influence of its founder Sir Joshua Reynolds. He formed the Pre-Raphaelite movement in 1848, after having met with the poet and artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Along with John Everett Millais they sought to revitalise art by emphasising the detailed observation of the natural world in a spirit of quasi-religious devotion to truth. This religious approach was influenced by the spiritual qualities of Medieval art, in opposition to the alleged rationalism of the Renaissance embodied by Raphael.
Hunt's works were not initially successful, but he became famous with his religious paintings, notably "The Light of the World", which toured Britain and the United States. After travelling to the Holy Land in search of accurate topographical and ethnographical material for further religious works, Hunt painted "The Scapegoat", "The Finding of the Saviour in the Temple" and "The Shadow of Death", along with many landscapes of the region.
All these paintings were notable for their great attention to detail, their hard vivid colour and their elaborate symbolism. These features were influenced by the writings of John Ruskin and Thomas Carlyle, according to whom the world itself should be read as a system of visual signs. For Hunt it was the duty of the artist to reveal the correspondence between sign and fact.
Hunt also painted many works based on poems, such as "Isabella" and "The Lady of Shallot".
Hunt's autobiography "Pre-Raphaelitism and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood" was written to correct other literature about the origins of the Brotherhood, which in his view did not adequately recognise his own contribution. Many of his late writings are attempts to control the interpretation of his work.
See also English school of painting