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William Holman Hunt collection

Call Number: MS 208


Miscellaneous collection of letters, photographs, and other items concerning British painter William Holman Hunt, mostly compiled by University of Kansas English professor William Doremus Paden.


  • 1856 - 1910


Conditions Governing Access

No access restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Spencer Library staff may determine use restrictions dependent on the physical condition of manuscript materials.

Biography of William Holman Hunt (1827-1910)

William Holman Hunt, the son of William (1800-1856) and Sarah (1798-1884) Hunt, was born in April 1827, the third of 7 children born to the couple. His father was a warehouseman for the haberdashery manufacturer James Chadwick & Brother, located not far from where Hunt was born in Cheapside, London.

From an early age, Hunt was always drawing, and at the age of 12 he made his own arrangements to serve as a copying clerk to a Spitalfields estate agent and auctioneer, when his father would have sent him to work in a city warehouse. James Labram, the estate agent, encouraged Hunt's talents, and Hunt began studying drawing at a mechanic's institute and taking painting lessons with portraitist Henry Rogers.

Hunt's early works were mostly portraits, including of ordinary laborers. He met John Everett Millais in 1844 at the British Museum, and Millais would become his closest friend. Millais's encouragement helped Hunt gain entry to the Royal Academy Schools, where he met the art critic Frederick George Stephens, who would become a great supporter. Reading art critic John Ruskin's work also had an impact on Hunt's painting style and themes.

In 1848 Hunt met poet and painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and they began sharing an art studio in Fitzroy Square. By the end of that year they with Millais, Stephens, and others formed the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, whose artwork received mixed receptions from critics and the public in their early exhibitions.

Hunt's paintings became increasingly based in complex intellectual and religious frameworks, and Hunt increasingly turned to naturalism and outdoor scenes to set the stage for his paintings, focused especially on light. In the mid-1850s he traveled to Egypt, Jerusalem, Syria, and through parts of the Ottoman Empire. Upon returning to England, Hunt did small paintings, illustrations, and designs for engravings in order to earn income. He also took up some furniture design and was particularly concerned about frame design for his pictures.

Hunt married Fanny Waugh (1833-1866) in 1865, with whom he had one son, Cyril Benoni. Fanny never recovered from childbirth, and shed died in December 1866. Hunt designed an elaborate marble tomb for her in Florence, Italy, where they had been living when she died, and in 1869 he returned to Jeruasalem and Egypt. He returned to the Near East two more times, in the 1870s and 1890s, to complete additional works.

In 1875 Hunt married Fanny's younger sister (Marion) Edith (1846-1931), a move that alienated him from the Anglican establishment and isolated them both from their families. They had two children, Gladys and Hilary, and both wife and children posed for some of Hunt's paintings. In the early 1900s Hunt wrote his memoirs, a project he had been planning since writing a series of articles in the 1880s about the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Hunt had broken from Rossetti and Ford Madox Brown, as well as other members of the Brotherhood and wished to promote his and Millais' wing of the Brotherhood. William Holman Hunt died in 1910 and was cremated, his ashed buried at St. Paul's Cathedral next to William Turner's tomb.

[Information retrieved from Bronkhurt, Judith, "Hunt, William Holman," Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2014.]


.25 Linear Feet (1 document case)

Physical Location

MS 208

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift, W.D. Paden estate, 1979.

Guide to the William Holman Hunt Collection
William Holman Hunt collection
Finding aid prepared by alh, 1989. Finding aid encoded by mwh, 2021.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Finding aid written in English.
Finding aid permalink
Preferred citation
William Holman Hunt collection, MS 208, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas

Repository Details

Part of the University of Kansas. Kenneth Spencer Research Library Repository

1450 Poplar Lane
Lawrence KS 66045-7616 United States