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Arthur Hughes (1832-1915)


A prominent member of the Pre-Raphaelite circle, Arthur Hughes was both a painter and illustrator of significance. While he remains best known for his delicately poetic paintings of the 1850s and 60s, he eventually won more fame in his lifetime as an illustrator, with ‘his simple command of line and sometimes startling imagination’ (Stephen Wildman, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography). He was well known for his gentle spirit, William Michael Rossetti, the chronicler of Pre-Raphaelitism, describing him as having ‘the sweetest and most ingenuous nature of all’ (Some Reminiscences, London: Brown, Langham, 1906, vol 1, page 147).

Arthur Hughes was born in London on 27 January 1832, probably at 7 Dover Street, Mayfair, the third son of the hotel-keeper, Edward Hughes, and his wife Amy (née Knight).

He was educated at Archbishop Tenison’s Grammar School, in Castle Street, Long Acre, where he showed such ability in drawing that, in 1846, at the age of 14, he was allowed to enter the Government School of Design at Somerset House, where he studied under Alfred Stevens. From December 1847, he studied at the Royal Academy Schools, and two years later both won a silver medal for drawing from the antique and exhibited for the first time at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition.

In 1850, Hughes found inspiration in the Pre-Raphaelite magazine, The Germ, which was circulated by his fellow student, the Scottish sculptor, Alexander Munro. In the following year, Munro introduced him to William Holman Hunt and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, both key members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, and their associate, Ford Madox Brown.

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