Pre-Raphaelite painter and illustrator. Studied under Alfred Stevens. Entered RA Schools in 1847; began exhibiting at the RA in 1849. In about 1850 he converted to Pre-Raphaelitism. Met Holman Hunt, Rossetti, Madox Brown, and later Millais. In 1852 he exhibited his first major Pre-Raphaelite picture 'Ophelia'. Throughout the 1850s and 1860s Hughes continued to produce a series of delicately poetic pictures, which hover on "the knife-edge between sentiment and sentimentality" (Fredeman) but are always redeemed by their brilliant colour and microscopic detail. Some of the best known are 'Home from the Sea', 'The Long Engagement', 'Aurora Leigh's Dismissal of Romney' and 'April Love' which Ruskin thought "exquisite in every way". In 1857 he worked with other Pre-Raphaelites on the frescoes in the Oxford Union. He was also a member of the Hogarth Club. About 1858, Hughes retired to live with his family in the suburbs of London. He lived at 284 London Rd, Wallington, Sutton, and at Eastside House, 22 Kew Green, Richmond. A 'blue plaque' was erected on the latter house in November 1993.
Being of a quiet and retiring nature, very little is known of his later career. After about 1870 his work lost its impetus. Hughes was the original illustrator of Tom Brown's Schooldays, and George MacDonald's At the Back of the North Wind and The Princess and the Goblin. He also illustrated Allingham's Music Master and many other novels, children's books and periodicals. He worked with Christina Rossetti on Sing Song in 1871. He exhibited at the Royal Academy, Grosvenor Gallery and New Gallery. He died on 22 December 1915. A sale of his works took place at Christie's after his death on 21 November 1921.
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