Oil on canvas
Image size: 10 ½ x 7 ½ inches
Original gilt frame
William Hale-White, thence to his daughter Mary Theodora Hale-White; thence to her niece Cecily Hale-White; then to her godson John Hale-White; bought by Leonard Roberts in 1990.
The portrait depicts the daughter of William Hale White (1831 – 1913), known by his pseudonym Mark Rutherford, a British writer and civil servant. William Hale White and Hughes were friends and Hughes daughter married one of Hale Whites sons.
This stunning portrait painted in the pre-Raphaelite style dates to around the 1850s, the emerald background lifts out the girls golden hair. A beautifully detailed little gem.
Hughes is widely acknowledged to be the best of the younger followers of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, having been inspired by its magazine, The Germ, in 1850. In the same year he met William Holman Hunt, Dante Rossetti and Ford Madox Brown. He exhibited his first Pre-Raphaelite painting, Ophelia, at the RA in 1852, where he met Millais.
He produced some of his best-known works during the 1850s, including The Long Engagement and April Love. The latter was described by Ruskin as ‘exquisite‘, and was bought by a very enthusiastic William Morris after he saw it in the Royal Academy exhibition of 1856.
Hughes later wrote of Pre-Raphaelitism ‘it would be impossible to and dreadful to conceive what I might have been without it all, and I shudder to think of it’. Unlike many of his contemporaries within the Brotherhood Hughes chose to live quietly, but was very popular within the set and maintained lifelong friendships with most of them. ‘If I had to pick out’, wrote William Rossetti many years later, ‘from amid my once numerous acquaintances of the male sex, the sweetest and most ingenuous nature of all, the least carking and querulous, and the freest from envy, hatred and malice, and all uncharitableness, I should probably find myself bound to select Mr Hughes’.
The father of five children, Hughes struggled to make ends meet through the sale of his paintings alone and so supplemented his income by illustrating books and magazines. Foremost among these publications were Good Words, Good Words for the Young, and Tom Brown’s School Days.
Hughes died in Kew in 1915, leaving about 700 known paintings and drawings, along with over 750 book illustrations. He is buried in Richmond Cemetery.