Edward Robert Hughes RWS (1851-1914)

The symbolist painter E. R. Hughes was the nephew of the Pre-Raphaelite artist Arthur Hughes, under whom he studied before proceeding to the Royal Academy Schools. He later worked on and off for Holman Hunt, and knew Burne-Jones. He exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1870-1911, but made his name at the Royal Watercolourist Society, becoming ARWS in 1891, RWS in 1895, and Vice President of the institution for the period 1901-3. He was based in London, but moved to St Albans in 1913.

What sort of paintings do we get from a painter with such a Pre-Raphaelite background? There is much of Burne-Jones in his work, perhaps most strikingly in his Oh What's That in the Hollow, his diploma work at the RWS, which is a symbolist version of Burne-Jones's Briar Rose series. He produced some very Pre-Raph portraits of girls with long hair also. However, it is the consistently symbolist nature of his work that separates him from the Pre-Raphaelites, and his best known work, Night with her Train of Stars is very much of that genre. Many of his pictures have ancient or (obscure) literary themes, typically with nude or semi-clad girls, again usually symbolist. However, one more Pre-Raphaelite influence in his work is the backgrounds, often highly detailed and sympathetically depicted landscape.

He seems to have tried various other genres before settling his style, including the occasional go at a fairy picture, and a couple tending towards the erotic in a rather von Stuckish style. He also produced a number of child portraits dissimilar from his other work.

Night with her Train of Stars is in the Birmingham gallery.

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