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Edward Robert Hughes

Night and her Train of Stars

train of stars TH

$275

Framed Size  25.5 x 36

The frame is a classic Black Lacquer with a brushed gold inside Edge

Midsummer's Eve

Mid summer beaded gold mohog med

$275

Framed Size  34 x 24.5

The frame is a classic 3 inch Mahogany with gold beaded lip

$285

Framed Size  34 x 24.5

The frame is a classic 4 inch antique
gold with a dark red rub

 Edward Robert Hughes  was born in the Clerkenwell district of London on November the 5th 1849, the only child of Edward Hughes, and Harriet, nee Foord. The Hughes family was Welsh, and seems to have been in the habit of marrying into the Foord family, as Arthur Hughes the painter, Edward’s uncle married one Trypheena Foord. Young Ted seems to have been drawn to his artistic uncle, who had a family of five, forming a social family circle for their solitary cousin. He shared Arthur Hughes artistic leanings, and his rather gentle retiring nature.

Edward Hughes entered the Royal Academy Schools, and also seems to have had active encouragement from ‘Uncle Arthur.’ He was a conscientious hardworking student, who adopted a rigorous and thorough approach to his training. He became a member of an informal group of fellow students, who admired the watercolours of Edward Burne-Jones and wanted to emulate them. This group included Robert Bateman, Walter Crane, and Edward Clifford. Hughes also became close to Charles Fairfax Murray, who had initially trained to be an architectural draughtsman. Murray, who became a studio assistant to Burne-Jones, made an eloquent portrait drawing of his seventeen year old friend.

Edward Hughes started exhibiting at the Royal Academy in 1872, by which time he had a studio in Beaufort Street Chelsea, and at this time met Edward Burne-Joness. Hughes also met the poet George MacDonald, and became engaged to one of his daughters, who unhappily died before the wedding could take place-at this point we should all be thankful for subsequent medical advances. He took a considerable time to recover from this loss, and did not exhibit at the Royal Academy at this time. In 1883, however, Hughes exhibited a painting of Mrs George MacDonald, who would under happier circumstances have been his mother-in-law. The same year he married Emily Eliza Davies. Hughes then resumed exhibiting at the Royal Academy, virtually all the paintings being portraits. He must have had a considerable output of portraits during the course of his artistic career. Hughes also regularly exhibited at the Royal Watercolour Society, the British Institution, and the Grosvenor Gallery. At these venues he showed a much more Pre-Raphaelite and symbolist type of picture. He was very much attracted to paintings on themes from Italian literature, with diaphanous drapery, his characteristic shades of blue, in combination with gold, and an atmosphere of mysticism. In the 1890s, the Royal Watercolour Society was his prime exhibition arena.

The art of Edward Hughes was appreciated in other countries, particularly Austria and Germany, whose public collections have some important examples of his work. In 1895 he achieved further international recognition at the Venice Biennale, with a painting called Biancabella and Samaritana. Like a number of his nudes, this picture has strong erotic undertones. Hughes was proud of his expertise as a painter of the nude. He became an Associate of the Royal Watercolour Society in 1891, and full RWS in 1895. Like so many other Victorian artists he was a painstaking perfectionist, making many meticulous preparatory studies. In view of the quality of his work, perhaps I do not need to say this-it is self-evident. Hughes continued to produce portraits, and also worked on Shakespearean themes. Hughes as an individual seems to have lacked personal vanity, and as an established rather celebrated artist was content to work as a studio assistant to Holman Hunt, whose eyesight was failing; their relationship seems to have been based on mutual respect. He worked under the direction of Hunt on his final, and largest version of ‘The Light of the World,’ now in St Pauls Cathedral. In 1906 Hunt exhibited his celebrated picture ‘The Lady of Shalott, the product of years of labour. Unfortunately by this time his eyesight had declined to such an extent that he again used Hughes as his assistant to finally complete this great painting. The city fathers of Manchester declined to buy this painting, because in their gritty Northern way, they were suspicious of its genuineness, thus depriving Manchester of one of the greatest of all Pre-Raphaelite paintings. In the obituary of Hunt in The Times, Edward Hughes was described as Hunt’s ‘Son In Art.’ Hughes was close to the whole Hunt family, painting portraits of the son Hilary, daughter Gladys, and a final portrait of Edith for her dying husband in 1909.

Edward Hughes was a sociable popular man, and was Vice president of the Royal Watercolour Society from 1901-1903. His kindness to young painters was well-known, and he was a much- loved and highly respected lecturer for the London County Council. In 1913 he moved to St Albans, and died on April 23rd 1914 following an unsuccessful operation. Friends of the artist formed a Memorial Committee, bought his famous painting ‘Night and her Train of Stars,’ and presented it to Birmingham Art Gallery. To write about this admirable individual has been a great pleasure.

 

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