The Hireling Shepherd (1851-52) by William Holman Hunt

The Hireling Shepherd - William Holman Hunt - 1851

Artwork Information

TitleThe Hireling Shepherd
ArtistWilliam Holman Hunt
MediumOil on Canvas
Dimensions50.5 x 45 cm
Art MovementRomanticism
Current LocationManchester Art Gallery, Manchester, UK

About The Hireling Shepherd

“The Hireling Shepherd” is an artwork completed in 1851 by William Holman Hunt, a painter associated with the Romanticism movement. The piece is executed in oil on canvas and portrays a genre scene typical of the period. The painting’s dimensions are 50.5 by 45 centimeters, and it currently resides in the Manchester Art Gallery located in Manchester, UK.

The artwork captures a pastoral scene in vivid detail, showing a shepherd and a young woman in the foreground. The shepherd, dressed in a vibrant red and green attire, reclines casually while propping himself on one arm, and engages with the young woman beside him, who is draped in a flowing white dress with a red shawl, suggestively unengaged with her immediate surroundings. She holds a sickly-looking sheep on her lap and seems to offer it a handful of apples, illustrating a sense of negligence or lackadaisical approach to the welfare of the sheep. Around them, various sheep graze and meander unattended, some appearing to stray towards a dense forest in the background, indicative of the shepherd’s inattentiveness. The landscape is lush and detailed, with thriving trees, a field of golden wheat, and a clear sky, creating an idealized backdrop that contrasts sharply with the underlying narrative suggested by the characters’ actions.

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