Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Artist Spotlight: Edward Robert Hughes

by Cory Godbey

Edward Robert Hughes is one of those Pre-Raphaelite painters that I should have known about sooner. 

While I'd certainly seen a piece or two in the past, it's only very recently that I'd had the chance to do any study about the man himself and his work. The quiet grace and (I'm not sure exactly how better to put this) the intimate otherworldliness strikes a certain tuning fork within me. I was compelled to dive further into his work and I'm here now to bring you a look at what I discovered.

Hughes was born in 1851, London. Young Edward studied under his uncle, the celebrated painter Arthur Hughes, until he entered the Heatherley School of Fine Art.

Afterwards, Hughes was accepted into the Royal Academy School at the age of 17. He went on to have a distinguished career in portraiture as well as academia.

Beginning in 1888, he served as a studio assistant to William Holman Hunt, a position he held until 1905.

Throughout his lifetime Hughes earned many prestigious titles. He gained membership in the Art Workers Guild (also in 1888) and in 1891 he was elected to Associate Membership of The Royal Water Colour Society. Ultimately, he became the Vice-President of the Society.

He died in 1914, just before the outbreak of the Great War. According to Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery curator, Victoria Osborne, Hughes was something of a "lost" artist. 

After his death, Hughes "began to plummet into critical obscurity. He did not have a one-man show in his lifetime and his work was not seriously re-examined for more than 60 years." 

In light of that, I find it incredibly touching that shortly after his death some of Hughes' friends formed what they called the E. R. Hughes Memorial Committee. 

They gathered up the equivalent of £13,000 and purchased two paintings from Hughes' widow, Emily Eliza, and donated them. The above painting, Night with Her Train of Stars, was donated to the city of Birmingham. The second painting, Blondel's Quest was given to the Ashmolean in Oxford. 

Speaking of Birmingham, at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, currently there's an exhibition featuring more than 70 pieces, evidently some of which hasn't been seen for the last 100 years. It opened back in October and will close next month, February 21st. 


This being my first Muddy Colors post of the New Year I wanted to say thanks again to you, the reader, for your support! While I've done this every year so far, I didn't think to do it back in December with my final post of 2016 -- I've complied a handy guide to look back at all my posts from last year. Enjoy!


One final housekeeping note, if you need more Muddy Colors in your day you can follow us on Twitter and Instagram! We're @muddycolors on both. 


  1. Thank you for reminding me that this wonderful artist exists! It's funny that I had so many of his images in montage posters of Pre-raphaelite art in my college dorm, but I never quite thought to look up the man himself. I'm so pleased to see art here I've never seen before! That sense of discovery is always fun. Time to study up!

  2. I'm currently working on an homage to that last painting, "Midsummer Eve", so it's nice to see I'm not the only one who thinks Hughes should be more widely recognized.

  3. Just a heads up, the fourth one down with the orange dress was actually by Eleanor Fortescue-Brickdale.

    Great post though, I can't get enough art from this era.

    1. Thanks so much, Michael! Sorry to say I missed that. I've updated the post.

  4. awesome stuff! thank you for this article!

  5. Thank you so much for sharing, I wasn't familiar with this artist before, marvellous work! Can't seem to find any info on the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery page about the exhibition though, I hope they didn't take it down earlier, would have been fantastic to go see it!

    1. Staffan, my apologies! This is a New Years case of mixing up dates, looks like the article I read was February 2016. As I'm still accidentally writing 2016 instead of 2017 all the time I suppose it was only a matter of time before it caught up with me.


      Either way, the BMAG has many Hughes paintings in their permanent collection, as I understand it.

    2. Oh I see, that explains it! No worries Cory :)


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