Like Holman Hunt, Seddon believed that his visit to the Middle East had provided him with invaluable access to visible truths unavailable to those without first-hand knowledge of the landscape. Experiencing the landscapes that had provided the setting for the events of sacred history itself made that history appear more authentic and more believable. As he wrote from Jerusalem on 10 June 1854, "Besides the beauty of this land, one cannot help feeling that one is treading upon holy ground; and it is impossible to tread the same soil which our Lord trod, and wander over His favourite walks with the apostles, and follow the very road He went from Gethsemane to the Cross, without seriously feeling that it is a solemn reality, and no dream" (Memoir, 85). Like his companion, Seddon accepted that his first-hand encounter with the landscape of Jerusalem and other sacred sites offered both a high artistic opportunity and an equally high artistic duty. Before he arrived in Jerusalem Seddon wrote to his future wife he believed that he must "wield my brush in defence of the holy city from all misrepresentation."
Hunt had a major influence upon Seddon while they were in the Middle East, and this influence clearly appears in the letters the younger artist wrote home, which are remarkable because they so resemble those written by Hunt himself. Like his traveling companion, Seddon found Eygpt a disappointment but was delighted by Jerusalem, and like Hunt, his encounters with the landscapes within which Bible events had taken place produced spiritual experiences so intense that they amounted to religious conversions. Like Hunt, Seddon devoted significant portions to his letters to describing and meditating upon these landscapes, and like his companion, his painting relates importantly to those emotional experiences of landscape. Finally, while painting his major work produced during this stay in the Middle East, he shared Hunt's idea that typological symbolism could enrich the pictorial image. Hunt, we know, also continued to assist Seddon after his return home by completing one of his watercolors, and he also helped in the sale of Jerusalem and the Valley of Jehosophat to benefit the artist's family after his death.
Eastern Encounters: Orientalist Paintings of the Nineteenth Century. London: The Fine Art Society, 1978.
Hunt, William Holman. Pre-Raphaelitism and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. 2 vols. London: 1905.
Landow, George P. "Thomas Seddon's "Moriah." The Journal of Pre-Raphaelite and Aesthetic Studies. 1 (1987), 59-65. [text]
"William Holman Hunt's Letters to Thomas Seddon." Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester, 66 (1983), 139-72.
Memoir and Letters of the Late Thomas Seddon, Artist. ed. John P. Seddon. London: James Nisbet, 1858.
Staley, Alan. The Pre-Raphaelite Landscape. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 19.
Last modified 9 June 2004