They say a picture is worth a 1000 words. Here is my favorite painting by William Holman Hunt. In this painiting he gives a foretaste of why Jesus came with Mary glancing at the wall in the carpenter’s shop and seeing why her son took on flesh to be the Savior of the world. Christ’s life, death, and resurrection is perhaps best summarized by the Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “For our sake he made him to be sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” And by Peter in 1 Peter 3:18 & 2:24, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit…He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.”
*William Holman Hunt (1827-1910 – British) changed his middle name from “Hobman” to Holman when he discovered that a clerk had misspelled the name after his baptism at the church of Saint Mary the Virgin, Ewell. After eventually entering the Royal Academy art schools, having initially been rejected, Hunt rebelled against the influence of its founder Sir Joshua Reynolds. He formed the Pre-Raphaelite movement in 1848, after meeting the poet and artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Along with John Everett Millais they sought to revitalize art by emphasizing 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. He had many pupils including Robert Braithwaite Martineau.
Hunt’s works were not initially successful, and were widely attacked in the art press for their alleged clumsiness and ugliness. He achieved some early note for his intensely naturalistic scenes of modern rural and urban life, such as The Hireling Shepherd and The Awakening Conscience. However, it was with his religious paintings that he became famous, initially The Light of the World (1851–1853, now in the chapel at Keble College, Oxford; a later version (1900) toured the world and now has its home in St Paul’s Cathedral.
In the mid 1850s Hunt traveled to the Holy Land in search of accurate topographical and ethnographical material for further religious works, and to “use my powers to make more tangible Jesus Christ’s history and teaching”; there he painted The Scapegoat, The Finding of the Savior in the Temple and The Shadow of Death, along with many landscapes of the region. Hunt also painted many works based on poems, such as Isabella and The Lady of Shallot. He eventually built his own house in Jerusalem.
His paintings were notable for their great attention to detail, vivid color and 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. Out of all the members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood Hunt remained most true to their ideals throughout his career. He was always keen to maximize the popular appeal and public visibility of his works.
He eventually had to give up painting because failing eyesight meant that he could not get the level of quality that he wanted. His last major work, The Lady of Shallot, was completed with the help of an assistant (Edward Robert Hughes).
2 thoughts on “Why Jesus Came – “The Shadow of Death” Painting by *William Holmes Hunt”
my mother owns a print of this painting. I am wondering the framed value.
Wow – that’s amazing – I have absolutely no idea – but I’m sure if you contacted a major museum or art center that they would be able to help you.