Hunt's approach to art was often highly moralistic. Here he shows a kept woman in a modern setting, in order to explore contemporary issues of sin, guilt and prostitution.The young woman rises suddenly from her lover's lap. Inspired by the light pouring through the window from the garden, she realises the error of her ways. Hunt captures this fleeting moment of consciousness with characteristic exactitude. The complex composition is loaded with symbolism. Many of the intricate details, such as the bird trying to escape from a cat, emphasise the picture's underlying message of possible redemption.


  • Title: The Awakening Conscience
  • Creator: William Holman Hunt
  • Creator Death Place: London, United Kingdom
  • Creator Birth Place: London, United Kingdom
  • Date Created: 1853
  • Provenance: Presented by Sir Colin and Lady Anderson through the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1976
  • Physical Dimensions: w559 x h762 mm
  • Original Title: The Awakening Conscience
  • Type: Painting
  • Medium: Oil on canvas

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