ART / Deja Vu: In 1852 Holman Hunt shocked the art world with his Strayed Sheep. Recently, another flock 'strayed' into a West End gallery as the 'living sculpture' element in an exhibition of work by Israeli sculptor Menashe Kadishman

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The Independent Culture
William Holman Hunt's painting was inspired by lines from the Old Testament: 'All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way . . .' (Isaiah 53, 6). It shocked the Victorian public.

After having seen it at the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1856, Eugene Delacroix noted in his diary: 'I am really amazed by Hunt's sheep.' The French critic Robert de la Sizeranne marvelled at its 'blood-red sheep in indigo bushes, on rocks chiselled like sugar-candy, under an audacious sky . . . With all his extravagances Hunt made a colour speak which before him had only slumbered heavily . . .' The painter F G Stephens called it 'a very subtle piece of observation, which we never remember to have seen painted before.'

Kadishman recently explained his own sheep:

'Sheep and iron are both materials for sculpture but at the same time they can also be the subject matter for sculpture. Therefore a reality of nature can also be a reality of art. For me they are the same thing. My sculpture and related projects are made as much from dreams, disappointments and hope as they are made from the feelings I have towards the sharp edges of the iron and wool of sheep. I grew up with the culture of the abstract, the minimal, and art for art's sake. Dealing now with images of sheep, sacrifice and birth, I don't find any contradiction. My life and work spring from the same source: Art History, the Ancestry of Man, and Love.'

(Photographs omitted)

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