Acquired by the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford
William Holman-Hunt, O.M. (1827-1910)
Royal Society of Arts Silver 'President's Medal'
Awarded to the Pre-Raphaelite Painter in 1880 for his Discourse "The Present System of Obtaining Materials in Use by Artist Painters, as Compared with that of the Old Masters"
Silver Medal with Engraved Rim
Within its Original Box
5.6 cm (diameter)
An interesting Pre-Raphaelite 'relic'. The medal is one of those originally produced for the RSA by the die-engraver Leonard Charles Wyon (1826–1891), to be awarded periodically for meritorious work. The medals were produced in bronze and silver, and when they were presented to a recipient the edge of the medal was engraved with a citation outlining the reason for the award. This example reads:-
W. HOLMAN-HUNT, FOR HIS PAPER ON "THE PRESENT SYSTEM OF OBTAINING MATERIALS IN USE BY ARTIST PAINTERS, AS COMPARED WITH THAT OF THE OLD MASTERS". 1880 ♱
This Royal Society of Arts 'President's Medal' in silver was presented to the artist William Holman Hunt in 1880 for the celebrated, campaigning discourse he delivered to the Royal Society on improvements in the manufacturing of artists' materials. There can be few more appropriate subjects for a talk to an association whose full, formal title is "The Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce".
Holman Hunt's 1880 RSA discourse has been the subject of various recent academic papers by Pre-Raphaelite scholars. His essay gives insights into his working practice and was to become influential in the development of better archival quality materials and improved colour-fast pigments in the industrial production processes of artists’ colours.
Through a series of letters to The Times published on 28 April 1880, 4 May 1880, and 2 June 1880 and his lecture delivered at the Society of Arts, Hunt spread the word about the “pestilential aniline dye” and the need “to found a society for looking after the material interests of painting”. Hunt’s RSA lecture was published inThe Journal of the Society of Arts 28, no. 1431 (1880): pp. 491–492. It is also fascinating to note that the paper was presented by Hunt at the precise time he was working on his large-scale replica of "The Light of The World" (which is now in St Paul's Cathedral).
The medal retains its original purple leather box, lined with blue velvet.
. For a broader account of how his campaigning on materials affected Hunt’s practice, see Joyce Townsend and Jennifer Poulin, “Painting: Materials and Methods”, in Katharine Jordan Lochnan and Carol Jacobi (eds.), Holman Hunt and the Pre-Raphaelite Vision (Toronto: Art Gallery of Toronto, 2008), 161–168.
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