by Paul Ripley
Hughes showed early artistic promise & enrolled in the Royal Academy Antique School in 1847. He was encouraged by Millais, who was always an affable individual. Hughes was inspired directly by The Germ, the short-lived Pre-Raphaelite magazine. He attended PRB meetings, in rather a junior hero-worshipping manner. Hughes was liked by the PRB, in fact he was throughout his long life, a well liked individual. He was also encouraged by Rossetti.
Hughes main traits as an individual were his modesty & self-effacement. He suffered somewhat at the hands of the Royal Academy, having a number of ill-merited rejections, & very badly hung pictures. He was never even elected an Associate. Hughes married, in 1855 Tryphena Foord, the union was lasting, & happy. As well as the limits imposed by his diffidence & modesty, Hughes was motivated by the desire for a stable, happy family life. Ultimately he was prepared to compromise artistic ambitions for this. Many of his pictures were of ordinary scenes of life. They were painted with great delicacy, & feeling, & were often in greens & mauves. Like the great orchestral composers, the warm sympathetic character of the man shines through in his work. William Michael Rossetti, writing about Hughes said “If I had to pick out, from my once numerous acquaintances of the male sex, the sweetest & most ingenuous nature of all, the least carking & querulous, & the freest from envy hatred & malice, & all uncharitableness, I should probably find myself bound to select Mr Hughes.” Should any human being have a better character reference, or epitaph than this I have yet to see it.
Following the death of Tryphena Hughes in 1921, their daughter Emily had to move to a smaller house. There was, therefore, a shortage of space. As a result she had her father’s remaining preparatory sketches, & all his private papers & correspondence destroyed. What an appalling act of artistic & historical vandalism!
Source: Victorian Art in Britain