This project will investigate the construction of Jewish and Christian identities in the painting "The Finding of the Saviour in the Temple" (1860) by William Holman Hunt and other relevant works. The Jewish nature of "The Finding" has been almost entirely overlooked to date. It has not been examined within the field of Jewish Studies and the attention that it has received within art-historical discourse has focused upon the Christian message offered by the artist and his associates. The scene is known as "The Disputation". Assumed to portray a generalised theological dispute between Christianity and Judaism, it also references scholarly disputations, regarded as determinants of truth within the developing academy.
I am proposing to examine the methodologies and signifying structures of ‘classical’, ‘critical’, ‘social’ and ‘socialist’ realist painting to determine whether they can be synthesised or adapted to generate a socially informed and democratically readable contemporary painting practice.
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