Arthur Hughes was born in January 1832, in London, England. His childhood education was at Archbishop Tenison’s Grammar School, and at 14 years old, he enrolled at the Somerset House’s School of Design, where he studied under Alfred Stevens.
In the next years, at only seventeen years old, Arthur Hughes would win an art scholarship at the Royal Academy Schools, exhibiting his first artwork two years later, called Musidora. From this time on, Hughes would constantly contribute to annual exhibitions, not only to the Royal Academy but, soon later, also to the New Gallery and the Grosvenor exhibitions as well.
Arthur Hughes was a Pre-Raphaelite sympathizer and rather intimate of their circle but was never a member of their group. His conversion to Pre-Raphaelism came after he read the Pre-Raphaelite magazine, The Germ in 1850. The same year he met Ford Madox Brown, D. G. Rossetti, and William Holman Hunt.
Hughes became friends with John Everett Millais when each of them exhibited a painting called Ophelia, side by side, in 1852, it was his first Pre-Raphaelite painting. Hughes even served as a model for one of Millais’ paintings, Hughes was the Royalist being protected by a young Puritan woman, in The Proscribed Royalist.
In 1855, Arthur Hughes married Tryphena Foord, who was his model for the painting entitled April Love. The couple had five children, and one of them, Arthur Foord Hughes, also became a painter. Also in 1855, the artist became a rather successful illustrator, becoming associated especially with the artworks by artists such as Christina Rossetti, George Macdonald, and Thomas Hughes. Hughes devoted the following two decades almost exclusively to illustration.
In 1856, Arthur Hughes exhibited two of his most excellent artworks at the Royal Academy: April Love and The Eve of St. Agnes, being the first purchased by the distinguished Pre-Raphaelite painter and textile designer, William Morris.
By 1857, Hughes, along with Morris, Rossetti, Edward Burne-Jones, and several other artists painted murals at the walls of what today is the Oxford Union Library. Some scholars argue that the aforementioned work inspired Hughes in his following production, which was primarily focused on the Arthurian legends, such as Sir Galahad and The Knight of The Sun.
As well as being regarded as one of the best younger artists of the Pre-Rahaelites, Hughes was also a well-established book illustrator, creating pictures for works by authors Thomas Hughes, George Macdonald, and Alfred Tennyson.
Arthur Hughes died in December 1915. He left behind an impressive oeuvre of over 1400 artworks, among drawings, paintings, and book illustrations.