The “tremendously interesting” in the seen bit or caught moment

From Henry James’ Notes of a Son and Brother, a description of the pre-Raphaelite artist William Holman Hunt‘s way of seeing and speaking. James had met Hunt as a teenager in the late 1850s during two family trips abroad to England. Although the two had no close relationship, Hunt and his work seem to have stuck uniquely in James’ head. The memory of his painting The Scapegoat is thought to be a prime influence behind James’ 1905 novel The Golden Bowl and the description below from the 1910 autobiography feels a perfect sketch of what James himself aspired to as writer.

William Hunt [had] a manner and range of gesture and broken form of discourse that was like a restless reference to a palette and that seemed to take for granted, all about, canvases and models and charming, amusing things, the “tremendously interesting” in the seen bit or caught moment, and the general unsayability, in comparison, of anything else.

And the painting (which really should have been the cover for René Girard’s work of the same name)

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