Room 1 Rejecting Nothing, Selecting Nothing

William Holman Hunt, ‘The Haunted Manor’ 1849
William Holman Hunt
The Haunted Manor 1849

I propose … to paint an out of door picture … the whole out of doors, direct on the canvas itself, with every detail I can see, and with the sunlight brightness of the day itself

Holman Hunt made the above resolution in 1848, in conversation with Millais. It describes the way the two men went on to paint nature: brightly coloured, detailed, and very accurate.

Hunt’s prescription was for figurative painting, not landscape, so the new vision appeared initially in the settings of figurative paintings. But these settings are seen with such intensity in works like Millais’s Ophelia that they are not simply backgrounds, but vividly active components of the paintings, conveying much of their meaning.

Their impact led to a school of Pre-Raphaelite landscape, based on the same principles. These principles had many sources. Among them was John Ruskin’s exhortation in Modern Painters to young artists to go to nature ‘rejecting nothing, selecting nothing, and scorning nothing’. Recalling those words, Ruskin came to the defence of Pre-Raphaelitism in 1851 and became not only its champion, but a participant in the movement as friend, patron, and amateur artist.