Hughes, Arthur

Arthur Hughes (1832-1915) was an artist and illustrator from England. He was affiliated throughout his career with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. He was only 18 when the Brotherhood was founded by William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. The group never opened up membership after its founding and several artists, like Hughes, who were associated with the Brotherhood never became full members. According to Wikipedia, “They believed that the Classical poses and elegant compositions of Raphael in particular had been a corrupting influence on the academic teaching of art.” The group strove to return to the abundant detail, intense colors and complex compositions of Quattrocento Italian and Flemish art.

Hughes was born of Welsh parents in London. He attended the Royal Academy where fellow students gave him the nickname of “Cherry” due to his ruddy complexion. A fellow student described him as having “the sweetest and most ingenuous nature of all, the least carking and querulous and the freest from “envy, hatred and malice, and of uncharitableness.”

His quiet demeanor hurt him within the art world. Author Percy H. Bate wrote in his book published in 1899, The English pre-Raphaelite painters: their associates and successors of Hughes, “Too retiring in his disposition, he has been content to work quietly, while artists with not one-half of his charm and ability have risen to popular success; and though one may sympathise with an artist whose mood of mind and work is so little self-assertive, one sympathises also with his hard fortune in lacking the meed of attention and praise that surely should be his.” Bate continued, “Always sweet, always wholesome, his work shows delicacy of feature, purity of colour, truth of texture, poetic fancy. He rarely seems to aim at dramatic force…There is a sweetness and gentle grace in his subjects, and a pleasing artistry in the accomplishment, that speak for themselves.”

Hughes died in 1915. His legacy included about 700 known paintings and over 750 book illustrations.

Further Reading

The Art of the Pre-Raphaelites

Unfortunately, Arthur Hughes was never formally accepted into the pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. This large, scholarly work on the movement only gives Hughes but a few pages. But, it does offer students and art enthusiasts a master class on the pre-Raphaelite movement, it's key members and the distinctive characteristics of pre-Raphaelite works.

Asleep in the Woods

For a painting of someone sleeping, I think this Arthur Hughes (1832-1915) classic is full of bright and bold colors. It reminds me more of a painting of someone enjoying their garden than a painting of someone asleep in the…
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The Nativity

English artist Arthur Hughes (1832-1915) reminds us all of how young Mary was when she gave birth to Jesus. Hughes’ version of The Nativity focuses on an extremely young woman learning how to care for her newborn. With the direct…
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Back from Sea

Though his uniform may date this painting by the English artist Arthur Hughes (1832-1915), the grief of returning home to death it shares has been experienced by generations of sailors. Recently home from the sea, the sailor lays collapsed with…
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A Visit to Grandmother

This oil on panel garden painting by the English artist Arthur Hughes (1832-1915) measures 31.1 by 34.9 cm. This charming flower garden painting is undated but it is believed that Hughes completed the work around the time of his Royal…
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English painter Arthur Hughes (1832-1915) gives us his version of William Shakespeare’s Ophelia. In the play, after the death of her father Polonius, Ophelia sings songs and hands out flowers citing their symbolic meanings. Queen Gertrude, in a later scene,…
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The Rendezvous

A beautiful lady in a green dress appears to having a secret rendezvous with someone in a garden. The drab figure has the face of a women but is wearing the clothing of a man. This intriguing oil on canvas…
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April Love

April Love is one of artist Arthur Hughes‘ (1832-1915) earliest and most famous works. This oil on canvas painting depicts a lovely young women in a blue dress and blue scarf looking as if she is hiding from someone. Somewhat…
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