[ilds] Durrell & Holman Hunt

James Gifford odos.fanourios at gmail.com
Mon Dec 24 13:22:44 PST 2007

yes, Grandmamma has Hunt images on her wall, and it plays a significant 
role in her characterization, though perhaps it's not flattering to Hunt...

The relevant passage comes from page 133:

"Grandmamma was impervious to storm and disease alike, securely 
entrenched behind the illusory fiction of her God, and the fixed belief 
that the plague had been justly sent to afflict a sinning people. She 
was squat, immense, and obese. The blue rolls of flesh that were her 
hands, glittered with the rings that were embedded in them; she walked, 
like a spirit of parasitic evil, about the house, murmuring texts and 
maxims. Moreover, she carried in her hands a bundle of printed tracts, 
of skeleton editions of the Gospel according to St. Luke, and of 
reproductions of Holman Hunt’s  pictures."

Notably, Grandmamma's appearance begins with

"WITH the summer came Grandmamma, and with Grandmamma came the plague; 
both calamities, coming as they did, at exactly the same time, became 
indissolubly linked together in the boy's mind as a double headed evil; 
a two fold catastrophe which was, inescapably, one."


slighcl wrote:
> See below for a surprising reference to Durrell's /Pied Piper of Lovers/. 
> Charles
> ***
> Monday, December 24, 2007
>     The Light fantastic
> Loved but neglected painting of Jesus became a touchstone of mass culture
> *Robert Fulford,  National Post  *Published: Monday, December 24, 2007
> Nathan Denette/National Post
> http://www.nationalpost.com/news/story.html?id=194882
> A century ago The Light of the World, a painting of Jesus Christ by 
> Holman Hunt, was the most popular picture in the British Empire. Hunt's 
> reputation has more or less disappeared but his best-known work still 
> evokes another age, when a single image could touch masses of people.
> The last time I thought much about The Light of the World was in the 
> 1950s when an evangelical Christian I worked with told me it was the 
> greatest picture ever painted. He felt that as an art critic I should 
> have this essential information. The subject comes up now because 
> Katharine Lochnan, the distinguished curator, is preparing a historical 
> show focused on The Light of the World, to appear in early 2009 in Frank 
> Gehry's new version of the Art Gallery of Ontario.
> The Light was the most popular product of the Pre-Raphaelite 
> Brotherhood, a movement founded by Hunt, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, John 
> Everett Millais and several others. They wanted to reform art by 
> rejecting the mechanistic approach of the Mannerists -- successors to 
> Raphael. Hunt began painting The Light of the World in 1851, inspired by 
> a passage in Revelations and believing that he was following a divine 
> command. Over the years he produced three versions; the first is now at 
> Keeble College, Oxford, the second in the Manchester Art Gallery, the 
> third in St. Paul's Cathedral.
> All of them show Christ bringing salvation to a broken world by knocking 
> on the door of a house that's been neglected. In his hand he holds a 
> lamp, symbolizing revelation. The door stands for the closed conscience 
> of the world and untended plants represent chaos.
> A strange light, possibly celestial, fills most of the picture. Hunt 
> worked on it at night, sometimes by moonlight. Though he wanted to 
> create up-to-date Christian art, he dressed Jesus in a golden 
> ecclesiastical robe. That may be one reason Protestants criticized the 
> picture as too Catholic. John Ruskin, the most eminent art critic of the 
> age, defended Hunt's symbolism.
> Engraving, the mass visual medium of the age, carried the image to a 
> large audience. In 1860, when a black and white engraving of the picture 
> first appeared, the Illustrated London News called it "one of the most 
> perfect things modern art has produced." It was widely copied, and soon 
> the image was in thousands of homes and churches across Britain.
> Working its way into the public subconscious, Hunt's version of Jesus 
> became the English equivalent of a Russian icon. It inspired a multitude 
> of poems and became the subject of an endless stream of hymns.
> For Protestants in several countries, it was inescapable. Placed in 
> nurseries, it was often the first art in the life of a child.
> In 1905 the third version, on which Hunt needed assistance because he 
> was losing his sight, set off on a Commonwealth tour, beginning with 
> Halifax. Usually it was shown all by itself, with no other pictures to 
> detract from its majesty. Halifax showed it at the Masonic Hall, Ottawa 
> at the Goldsmiths' Hall on Sparks Street. In Toronto it was given a room 
> of its own in the Ontario Society of Artists gallery on King Street. 
> There (according to Jeremy Maas's book, Holman Hunt and 'The light of 
> the world,' published in 1984) it "was draped with crimson, and a strong 
> light was thrown on it, while the rest of the room was plunged into 
> semi-darkness." That was typical: A visit by this painting was as much a 
> religious as an artistic event.
> Eastern Canada was not quite as excited as Hunt's admirers might have 
> desired, although some Christians were deeply impressed. Nine years 
> later, when the huge Timothy Eaton Memorial Church was built in Toronto, 
> one of its stained-glass windows reproduced The Light of the World, with 
> spotlights outside the church placed to emphasize the lantern in 
> Christ's hand. Churches across Canada used the same image.
> As it turned out, Australians loved it best. According to the people 
> running the tour, it was viewed by four-fifths of Australia's five 
> million residents. In Melbourne in 1906 visitors stampeded, anxious to 
> see it the moment it was open to the public. But if the crowd was rowdy 
> at first, Maas writes, soon "an air of reverential awe descended on the 
> gathering." Men removed their hats, voices fell to a whisper. Some 
> people stood or sat gazing at it for hours. A few visitors fainted. 
> Later it toured South Africa and in 1907 returned in triumph to Britain 
> and its final destination, St. Paul's.
> The installation in 1908 was celebrated with a special service at which 
> the passage from Revelations that inspired Hunt ("Behold, I stand at the 
> door, and knock...") was read. Hunt stood before his painting, in tears.
> When he died two years later, in September, 1910, The Times suggested 
> his remains be interred in St. Paul's. His ashes were carried into the 
> cathedral by Hunt's young Canadian friend, Charles Trick Currelly, who 
> would later become the great assembler of Chinese art for the Royal 
> Ontario Museum in Toronto. They rest now beside those of Christopher 
> Wren, Joshua Reynolds and J.M.W. Turner, three great figures whose 
> reputations have long outlived Hunt's.
> While his reputation as an artist declined, his celebrity status and the 
> messages in his work made him a favourite reference point for writers. 
> *In Lawrence Durrell's first novel, Pied Piper of Lovers, a pious old 
> woman hangs Hunt reproductions on her walls. *In Brideshead Revisited, 
> Evelyn Waugh refers to Hunt's The Awakening Conscience, in which an 
> innocent young woman suddenly leaps up from the lap of her boyfriend 
> because she remembers that what she's doing is sinful. Brian Aldiss's 
> science-fiction novel Report On Probability A concerns three characters 
> who secretly watch a house from separate vantage points while they 
> themselves are observed by creatures in another world. They all wonder 
> about the picture in the house, Hunt's The Hireling Shepherd, in which a 
> shepherd neglects his duty to seduce a maiden. The extraterrestrials 
> speculate that perhaps the painting is a form of television depicting a 
> world where time has stopped.
> Hardly anyone today admires The Light of the World as art but it remains 
> a historic moment in mass culture, the beginning of the great age of 
> reproduction, the first image that millions of people knew intimately, 
> and often loved.
> robert.fulford at utoronto.ca
> -- 
> **********************
> Charles L. Sligh
> Department of English
> Wake Forest University
> slighcl at wfu.edu
> **********************
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