Edward Robert Hughes
Born in the Clerkenwell district of London, Hughes was an only child. He was, however, exposed to a much larger familial circle thanks to his artistic uncle, Arthur; he picked up his uncle's gentle, retiring nature alongside his love for art. His cousins had no trouble whatsoever making room in their family for Hughes, welcoming him into their circle with open arms. When he was old enough, having received much encouragement in the arts by his uncle, Hughes enrolled in the Royal Academy Schools, showing a rigorous and hardworking attitude, and a passion to excel. Joining an informal student group that studied and admired the watercolors, posters, and prints of Edward Burne-Jones, he began wanting to emulate Burne-Jones' personal art style. One of his friends from this group actually went on to become a studio assistant for Burne-Jones, producing an eloquent portrait drawing of the seventeen-year-old Hughes.
Hughes' first exhibition was at the Royal Academy in 1872, where he met the man that inspired him in the flesh, Edward Burne-Jones. He also met the poet George MacDonald, and quickly became enamored of one of his daughters, resulting in an engagement. Tragically, his fiancee died before the wedding could take place, leading to a period of inactivity from Hughes. His next exhibit occurred in 1883, featuring a painting of his almost-mother-in-law, Mrs. MacDonald, and that same year saw him married to Emily Eliza Davies. Resuming his exhibitions at the Royal Academy, his works, largely portrait pieces, garnered some international appreciation, particularly in Austria and Germany, where a number of his pieces are part of their public collections.
Later in his career, having produced a sizeable collection of prints and portraits, as well as some work with Shakespearean themes, he found himself to be established and celebrated enough to be noticed by the ailing William Holman Hunt, whose eyesight was rapidly failing him. Working with Hunt as a studio assistant, Hughes most notably assisted in the creation of The Light of the World, a spiritually inspired piece that is prominently displayed in St. Paul's Cathedral. He was content to work under the guidance of Hunt, who was one of the founders of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, a group of English painters, poets, and critics, which Hughes readily identified with.
Working with his own style, which was heavily influenced by the Pre-Raphaelite avant-garde movement, as well as Aestheticism, Hughes was an avid perfectionist through his entire artistic career. Many of his works and paintings were preceded by numerous different studies, with the aim of perfecting his intentions before even starting on the piece. Some of his more well-known works include Midsummer Eve, Night With Her Train of Stars, and the aforementioned Light of the World, although he, of course, can't claim sole credit for that work. He was also quite critical of his own works, quite often being exceedingly harsh with his choices for exhibition pieces. His pursuit of artistic perfection continued unabated until his death, in 1914, at his home in St. Albans, Hertfordshire.