Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Last Romantic

Magnet # 84: Edward Robert Hughes' Night with Her Train of Stars

Material: Plastic

Purchased By: Me

The artist Edward Robert Hughes was born on this day in 1849, the only child of Edward and Harriet Hughes. His uncle was Arthur Hughes, a noted Pre-Raphealite artist and young Ted, as he was called, spent a great deal of time with him growing up, adopting his artistic views and sharing his quiet, gentle disposition. It was with his uncle's encouragement that Hughes attended the Royal Academy, mastering watercolor and befriending fellow artists who used the medium. Eventually, he made friends with Edward Burne-Jones, one of the leading watercolor artists of the time. He also became close to the poet George MacDonald and was engaged to his daughter, who sadly died before the marriage could ever take place. This devastated Hughes, who took some time to recover, although he was able to marry in 1883. Hughes' reputation grew in the years to come as he painted watercolor masterpieces, many of them portraits. He was even made Vice President of the Royal Watercolor Society in 1901. Considering he was an established artist in his own right at this time, it came as a surprise to some when Hughes became a studio assistant to the aging Holman Hunt, another Pre-Raphealite master who was beginning to loose his sight. During this time, he helped Hunt produce some of his greatest works, including The Light of the World, which now hangs in St. Paul's Cathedral. When Hunt finally passed, Hughes was mentioned in his obituary as the painter's "Son in Art." Hughes remained true to his Pre-Raphealite beliefs and ideals his entire life, which might have been difficult, considering public opinion began to turn against their aesthetics and toward others such as those of the Impressionists. Until the end of his life, he continued on in the tradition of his uncle, his friends, and his mentor. For that dedication, Hughes and a handful of artists have come to be known as "The Last Romantics," artists who stayed faithful to the artistic ideals of the Victorian times in which they were raised, although some faced rejection, ridicule, and poverty as a result. The work they left behind is some of the greatest of their time.

I don't know a huge amount about this image, although it is one of Hughes' most famous, and some claim the figure of night is actually death. It was produced in 1912 and the lovely title came from a line in a poem by W.E. Henly called 'I M Margaritae Soroi.' It's done in watercolor, like most of his paintings, and Hughes employed the stippling technique when he was working on its background, producing elaborate, intricate dots to create an atmospheric effect. The color blue he used here appeared in much of his work, and was his signature color. This is just a detail of a much larger, very impressive work. If you're interested, you can easily find the full image with a search engine like Google. The painting is now owned by the Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery in the United Kingdom. I would love to see it in person if I ever go over there. This and other images Hughes produced, like Midsummer Eve, remind the world not only of what a fantastic artist he was, but also of the amazing tradition he continued all of his life.

No comments:

Post a Comment