William Holman Hunt

The Haunted Manor


Not on display

William Holman Hunt 1827–1910
Oil paint on board
Support: 233 × 337 mm
frame: 390 × 495 × 66 mm
Purchased 1967

Display caption

Most of this landscape was painted in the open air in Wimbledon Park, in south-west London. The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood believed strongly in painting directly from nature.The picture has a low view point, filled with close and fastidious studies of plants, rocks and water. The murky tones of the waterfall and tangled vegetation contrast strongly with the narrow, brightly-lit strip of landscape at the top of the picture. It is likely that this and the deserted manor house in the top right were added later, to give the scene a mysterious atmosphere.

Gallery label, July 2007

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Catalogue entry

William Holman Hunt 1827–1910

T00932 The Haunted Manor 1849

Inscribed ‘Whh. [in monogram] 1849’ b.l.
Oil on millboard, 9¿x13¼ (23.25 x 33.75), stuck on panel.
Purchased at Sotheby’s (Grant-in-Aid) 1967.
Coll: Mrs Wilson, by 1857; Mrs Wilhen, sold Christie’s, 9 June 1911 (120), bt. Bell; William Edmiston 1937; Mrs Pamela Hay; James Coats, New York, sold Sotheby’s, 12 July 1967 (63, repr.), bt. Agnew for the Tate Gallery.
Exh: Liverpool Academy of Fine Arts, 1856 (307); Pre-Raphaelite Exhibition, Russell Place, 1857 (40); British Country Life, 39 Grosvenor Square, 1937 (390); The Pre-Raphaelites, Herron Museum of Art, Indianapolis, and Gallery of Modern Art, New York, 1964 (43, repr.); Paintings and Drawings by Victorian Artists in England, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, 1965 (62); The Pre-Raphaelites, Memorial Art Gallery, University of Rochester, 1965 (no catalogue).
Lit: Mary Bennett, ‘A Check List of Pre-Raphaelite Pictures exhibited at Liverpool 1846–67...’, in Burlington Magazine, CV, 1963, p. 492; Allen Staley, ‘Radical romantics’, in Art News, May 1964, p. 49, repr. in colour p. 32.

The origins of this picture are somewhat uncertain. In his autobiography Hunt describes a visit he made to Ewell in Surrey, apparently in 1847, when he became fascinated by a stream which ‘rippled along, circling in dimples as it was driven under sheltering willows, its banks strewn with long-disused mill-stones, discarded roller-beams, and ruined timber cog-wheels. Soon the flood was imprisoned by sluice gates; close at hand were abandoned huts, shuttered, overgrown, and choked with rank weeds. Here the kingfisher arrowed his way... the region was out of the ordinary world... All this luscious and lonely charm of dell and meadow had very early a fascination for me, and it was natural that I should attempt to register some of its mystery by my art. Accordingly, I began a painting of the pool above one of the first mills, with the sun glistening down and penetrating through every nook of the landscape. ‘Hunt also says that the painting was done on his drawing-board and that it was left unfinished after two or three days work. (Pre-Raphaelitism and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, 1905, 1, pp. 71-2). If T00932 is the picture in question, it was presumably finished and signed in 1849. However, the evidence does not seem conclusive. The problem of where and when T00932 was painted is further complicated by a picture by Millais of the same site, seen from a point just to the right of Hunt’s view-point, thereby excluding the house but revealing on the left a pathway upon which Millais placed the figures of a man and woman walking into the distance, preceded by a child. This picture. The Kingfisher’s Haunt’, belonged to the Street family but was destroyed in the Second World War (repr., Allen Staley, op. cit). J G Millais dated it 1856 (The Life and Letters of Sir John Everett Millais: 1899, II, p. 469), which seems to be a mistake. More important in the present context is the subtitle which it bore in John Miller’s sale in 1858: ‘A Study in Wimbledon Park’. If this title is correct, Hunt’s picture must also have been painted there.

Published in The Tate Gallery Report 1967–1968, London 1968.

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