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Holman Hunt Papers

Date range: 1843–1911

Number of items:

The Library holds arguably the world’s finest collection of papers of the Pre-Raphaelite painter William Holman Hunt (1827–1910).

The papers comprise diaries recording his visits to Egypt and Palestine in the 1850s, and over 300 letters. They are of great value to art historians, as they contain comments on the progress of major works such as The Hireling Shepherd, The Light of the World, The Awakening Conscience, The Scapegoat, The Shadow of Death, The Triumph of the Innocents and May Morning on Magdalen Tower.

The letters also contain references to important contemporaries such as Augustus Egg, Michael Frederick Halliday, Sir John Everett Millais, Coventry Patmore, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Alfred Lord Tennyson. There are 49 letters to Hunt’s close friend Edward Lear, 35 to Thomas Combe, director of the Clarendon Press and patron of Pre-Raphaelite artists, and a further 24 to the painter Frederic James Shields.

In 2006 the Library secured the purchase of an important set of nine detailed letters from Holman Hunt to his fellow painter Thomas Seddon, which had previously been held on loan. The letters date from the period 1852–5 and are primarily concerned with the painting expedition to the Near East which the two artists undertook in 1854–5.

In 2012 the Library purchased at auction an important set of six letters from Holman Hunt to the art critic and historian Frederic George Stephens (1827-1907), a fellow member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. The letters were written in 1871-2, while Hunt was staying in Jerusalem, and they describe in remarkable detail the faltering progress of his major allegorical painting, The Shadow of Death.

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Further Information:

Catalogue available online via ELGAR.

Alternative form:

Published microfilm: John Ruskin, the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, and Arts and Crafts Movement: the Ruskin, Holman Hunt, Fairfax Murray, Spielmann and Related Collections from the John Rylands University Library, Manchester (Woodbridge: Research Publications, 1990).

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