The Awakening Conscience (1853) by William Holman Hunt

The Awakening Conscience - William Holman Hunt - 1853

Artwork Information

TitleThe Awakening Conscience
ArtistWilliam Holman Hunt
MediumOil on Canvas
Dimensions76.2 x 55.9 cm (30 x 22 in)
Art MovementRomanticism
Current LocationTate Britain, London, UK

About The Awakening Conscience

“The Awakening Conscience” is an allegorical painting by William Holman Hunt, completed in 1853. This oil on canvas masterpiece, belonging to the Romanticism movement, measures 76.2 x 55.9 cm and is housed at Tate Britain in London, United Kingdom. The artwork resonates with deep moral and spiritual undertones, characteristic of Hunt’s concern with depicting truth and modern life infused with religious and moral lessons.

The artwork illustrates a moment of revelation and moral awakening. A young woman, dressed in a white blouse with lace details and a dark, richly decorated skirt, sits on the lap of a man who is reclined in an armchair. She has risen slightly, as if captured in the act of standing, and her face is turned away from the man, her eyes wide and looking upwards with an expression of realization or epiphany. The man, in contrast, looks up at her with an expression that combines amusement and surprise, his posture one of relaxed familiarity.

Hunt’s intricate attention to detail is evident in the array of objects and textures within the luxurious room—from the ornate patterns of the curtains and upholstery to the scattered music sheets and a cat playing with a bird under the table, each element enriches the narrative and symbolically contributes to the theme of the loss and reclaiming of innocence. The brilliant daylight streaming through the window contrasts the interior domesticity and suggests a spiritual or divine presence, beckoning the woman towards a metaphorical—and literal—light.

Through this artwork, Hunt communicates a moral message about Victorian society’s ills, presenting the woman’s sudden spiritual consciousness as a critique of the era’s hidden decadence, while advocating for the redemption and transformation of the individual.

Other Artwork from William Holman Hunt

More Romanticism Artwork

Scroll to Top