A View of the Taurus Mountains from Mersin, Turkey (a.k.a. Tarsus). William Holman Hunt (1827-1910). 1855. Watercolour and gouache on paper. 134 x 259 mm (5 5/16 x 10 3/16 inches). Signed lower left: "W h h / 55d." Provenance: the artist in 1907; by descent to his widow Marion Edith Holman Hunt 1910; by descent to their daughter Gladys Millais Mulock Holman Joseph 1931; by descent to her daughter Elisabeth Margaret Shenston Burt 1953. Sold at Bonhams, London, June 2007. Bought with a post auction bid in August 2011 after being offered as Lot 218, Bonhams New York, 28th April 2010. Exhibited: London, Ernest Brown & Phillips, The Leicester Galleries, 1906, Exhibition of the Collected Works of W. Holman Hunt, O.M., D.C.L., no. 40, as Tarsus; Manchester, Manchester City Art Gallery 1906−07, The Collected Works of W. Holman Hunt, O.M., D.C.L., no. 48, as Tarsus; Liverpool, Walker Art Gallery, 1907, Collective Exhibition of the Art of W. Holman Hunt, O.M., D.C.L., no. 39, as Tarsus. [Click on image to enlarge it.]
Commentary by Paul Crowther
Judith Bronkhurst's catalogue notes for a previous sale of this work (as Lot 91, Bonhams 21st June 2007) explain that it was painted during Holman Hunt's voyage from Beirut to the Dardanelles in November 1855. The picture is described in his diary entry for the 26th of that month as follows. "We are indeed cut off from visiting the land by want of time, yet from the deck the view is delightful, the plain and first range of mountains in rich shadow, with a curtain of clouds above just revealing a high distant snow capped range in sunlight. I set myself on the task of sketching but in leaving the mountains to be better made out afterwards I lose this valuable feature by the clouds falling upon them. It is interesting to observe the complete separation in nature between this place and the part we have left, the mountains being high table lands instead of rounded or peaked elevations" (quoted in Bronkhurst 80).
Hunt did not often work in watercolours, and when he did, it was either to produce highly finished exhibition works, or—as with the present picture—create visual records of notable scenes or effects.
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Bronkhurst, J. William Holman Hunt. A Catalogue Raisonné. Vol. 2. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2006. p. 80, no. D 135 (listed as "present whereabouts unknown").
Crowther, Paul. Awakening Beauty: The Crowther-Oblak Collection of Victorian Art. Exhibition catalogue. Ljubljana: National Gallery of Slovenia; Galway: Moore Institute, National University of Ireland, 2014. No. 60.
Davies, Randall, ed. "William Holman-Hunt, O.M. (1827-1910): Contemporary Notices of his Exhibits in Water Colour." Old Water-Colour Society's Thirteenth Annual Volume 1935-36 (1936). Illustrated Plate VI, facing p. 14, as The Dead Sea.
Hunt, William Holman. MS diary, John Rylands Library, University of Manchester, Eng. MS. 1211 fols. 84-84v, published in Bronkhurst p. 80.
Last modified 11 December 2014