As a child, Edward displayed an early artistic prowess, which was developed under the tutelage of his own uncle, the distinguished Pre-Raphaelite painter Arthur Hughes. Edward became very close to this side of the family, even living with them for a period, which produced another artist, his cousin Arthur Foord Hughes.
Since his uncle was a renowned Pre-Raphaelite, this style surely had a significant influence on his. However, he was also very keen on Aestheticism. He became the assistant to one of the founding members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, William Holman Hunt. In his later life, William Hunt began to suffer from glaucoma. Hughes was a pivotal character for Hunt to finish his artworks, such as his Light of the World and The Lady of Shalott.
Hughes soon enrolled at the Royal Academy Schools. Hughes was quite a perfectionist, for he would execute several studies and sketches before producing a fully realized painting.
During his lifetime, Hughes became very respected, for he was awarded several distinguished positions, such as on top becoming a member of the Art Workers Guild in 1888, he also participated in the committee of said institution between 1895 and 1897.
In 1891, Hughes was elected as an Associate Member of the Royal Watercolour Society. Oh, What’s That in the Hollow, is one was his most renowned pictures. It was used by him as his diploma work, to receive full membership from the institution. The artwork mentioned above was inspired by Amor Mundi, a verse from English poet Christina Georgina Rossetti.
Hughes became vice-president of the Royal Watercolour Society, position that he handed over in 1903. Hughes exhibited in several galleries throughout his career, such as the Grosvenor Gallery, the Dudley Gallery, the New Galley, as well as at the Royal Academy itself.
Regarding his personal life, Hughes’ life seems rather uneventful. By 1874, he was engaged with Mary MacDonald, daughter of George MacDonald, a renowned Scottish poet, and writer. Sadly, Mary passed away four years later. In 1883, the artist married Emily Eliza Davies. The couple did not have any offspring.
Edward Robert Hughes dies in April 1914, following an appendicitis surgery.