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Biography of William Holman Hunt

Photo of William Holman Hunt

William Holman Hunt was a nineteenth century Pre-Raphaelite painter.

When and Where was he Born?

2nd April 1827, Cheapside, London, England. Hunt changed his middle name from “Hobman” to Holman when he found that a clerk had misspelled his name at his baptism at the church of Saint Mary the Virgin, Ewell.

Family Background:

William Holman Hunt was the son of William Hunt, a warehouseman and Sarah Hobman. (Hunt changed Hobman to Holman as a result of a clerical error on his parent’s Marriage Certificate).


Entered Royal Academy Schools at the third attempt after working as office clerk.

1839-43: Took drawing classes at the Mechanic’s Institute.

Timeline of William Holman Hunt:

1839: Hunt starts work as an office clerk.

1843: He unsuccessfully applies for a place at the Royal Academy schools.

1844: He wins place at Royal Academy Schools.

1846: Holman Hunt exhibits his painting “Little Nell and her Grandfather” at the British Institution, and at the Royal Academy.

1848: He paints “The Eve of St Agnes”. He forms the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in September with Dante Gabriel Rossetti and John Everett Millais.

Pre Raphaelite house
7 Gower Street, Bloomsbury, London where the Pre-Raphaelite Group was formed. (copyright Anthony Blagg)
Pre Raphaelite plaque
Detail of the plaque (copyright Anthony Blagg)

1849: Holman Hunt travels to France and Belgium with Rossetti. He paints “Rienzi Vowing to Obtain Justice”.

1853: He paints the “The Awakening Conscience”.

1854: He travels to meet Thomas Seddon in Egypt. He paints “The Light of the World and The Awakening Conscience”.

1856: He returns from the Holy Land and refuses to be elected as an Associate of the Royal Academy. Hee paints “The Scapegoat”.

1857: Holman Hunt , Rossetti and Millais illustrate a volume of Tennyson’s poems for Edward Moxon.

1858: He forms the Hogarth Club with others.

1860: He paints “The Finding of the Saviour in the Temple” his first major biblical work.

1863: He paints “The Afterglow in Eygpt”.

Our English Coast (strayed sheep). 1852. Tate Gallery
Our English Coast (strayed sheep). 1852. Tate Gallery

1865: He marries Fanny Waugh.

1866: Fanny and Hunt leave on a trip to the East. Their first son is born on 26th October. Fanny contracts a fever and dies on 20 December.

1867: Holman Hunt goes back to England. He paints “Isabella and the Pot of Basil”.

1868: He takes a trip to Florence in June to work on a memorial to Fanny.

1869: Hunt arrives in Jerusalem on 31 August.

1872: Her arrives back in England in July.

1875: After a marriage to his Sister in Law, Edith Waugh, they travel to Jerusalem.

1876: Birth of a daughter Gladys Millais Mulock on 20 September.

1878: The family return to London in April.

1883: Holman Hunt finishes “The Triumph of the Innocents” which was begun in 1879.

1886: He begins painting “The Lady of Shalott”.

1892: He pays a visit to the Middle East for the last time.

1905: Hunt is awarded the Order of Merit from King Edward the Seventh and an honorary Doctorate by Oxford University. He publishes “Pre-Raphaelitism and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood”.

When and Where did he Die?

7th September 1912, London, England of asthma.

Age at Death:



The Triumph of the Innocents. (Tate Britain, London).

The Light of the World (Chapel at Keble College, Oxford).

The Hireling Shepherd and the Light of the World. (St Paul’s Cathedral London).


1. 1865 to Fanny Waugh. Dies 1866.
2. 1875 to his former wife’s sister Edith Waugh.

Site of Grave:

St. Paul’s Cathedral, London, England.

St Paul's Cathedral
St Paul’s Cathedral, London (copyright Anthony Blagg)

Places of Interest:


Tate Britain.