Arthur Hughes

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Arthur Hughes

by Arthur Hughes
Oil on millboard, 1851
6 in. x 5 in. (179 mm x 149 mm)
NPG 2759

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Inscriptionback to top

Incised and painted date under right shoulder: ‘1851.’;
inscr. in pencil in another hand, lower left-hand corner: ‘Arthur Hughes / by himself . age 19’;
below this, traces of rubbed out inscription: ‘Arthur’.
Printed and inscr. labels on old backboard:
(a) ‘76’;
(b) ‘Pitt & Scott Ltd. / 20/24 Eden Grove, London N7 8ED / No. 73 / Selbstportrait 1851’;
(c) ‘Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden / Ausstellung: Präraffaeliten / 23.11 73-24.2.74 / Katalog Nr.: 78’.

This portraitback to top

William Michael Rossetti’s affectionate description of Hughes in the late 1840s accords well with this slightly later self-portrait: ‘His face, giving evidence of his Welsh parentage, was singularly bright and taking – dark, abundant hair, vivid eyes, good features, and ruddy cheeks which earned him among his fellow-students the nickname of “Cherry”.’ [1] The freshness which characterized the young Hughes is skilfully rendered in the profile sketch.

In 1901 Arthur Hughes described the portrait, which was at the time in his possession, as painted ‘about 1850 when I was eighteen’, suggesting it was undated. [2] Crucially, a photograph commissioned by Hughes before 1901 from William Edward Gray shows NPG 2759 without the pencilled inscription (‘Arthur Hughes / by himself . age 19’), but with faint traces of a date under the shoulder. [3] When the portrait was acquired by the National Portrait Gallery in 1935, the date under the shoulder had been strengthened to ‘1851’, and it had acquired the pencilled inscription – which is apparently not in Hughes’s hand. [4]

The clean profile on a plain ground recalls the low-relief portrait profiles produced by the Pre-Raphelite sculptors Alexander Munro and Thomas Woolner at much the same time.[5] In fact Munro was one of Hughes’s closest friends in the 1850s; he introduced him to the PRB periodical The Germ in 1851 and they shared a studio in Pimlico from 1852 to 1858, occasionally using each other as models.

Carol Blackett-Ord

Footnotesback to top

[1] Rossetti 1906, vol.1, p.147.
[2] Roberts & Wildman (1997, no.8) dates it c.1850.
[3] See Roberts & Wildman 1997, no.8. The Gray photograph was used to illustrate Hughes’s obituary in the Burlington Magazine, Feb. 1915, facing p.204. For a copy of the photograph, see The Rob Dickins Coll., Watts G., Compton, COMWG2008.1037.
[4] Compare the handwriting on NPG 2759 with Arthur Hughes’s signature on NPG P30.
[5] Portrait roundels and ovals by Munro include those of Lady Constance Grosvenor (1852–3) and Agnes Gladstone (c.1855), and roundels by Woolner include Maurice Reynolds (1854), Thomas Carlyle (1855), Alfred Tennyson (1856), Stephen Lushington and Robert Browning. See Read & Barnes 1991.

Physical descriptionback to top

Head, profile to right, thick brown hair parted at left, traces of a moustache.

Conservationback to top

Modern frame.
Conservator report 28 March 2007.

Provenanceback to top

The artist; his son Arthur Foord Hughes from 1921, bequeathed to his sister Emily Hughes in 1934; given by her to the NPG 1935.

Exhibitionsback to top

Arthur Hughes: Pre-Raphaelite Painter, National Museum of Wales, Cardiff, and Leighton House, London, 1971 (10) .

Präraffaeliten, Staatliche Kunsthalle, Baden-Baden, 1973–4 (78).

The Pre-Raphaelites, Nationalmuseum, Stockholm, 2009 (6).

Reproductionsback to top

Burlington Magazine, February 1915, facing p.204.

Apollo, March 1964, p.221.

Metken 1973, p.138.

Roberts & Wildman 1997, p.58.

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