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The Princess Out of School, Edward Robert Hughes - Description of the Painting

09 May 2022
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The Princess Out of School - Edward Robert Hughes


Edward Robert Hughes (1851-1914) was born into an artistic family; he grew up being surrounded by the devoted followers of Pre-Raphaelite style. His mentors influenced on forming the ideals of the future master greatly: the Pre-Raphaelites drew their inspiration from romantic literature, medieval ballads, ancient myths and legends, from the poetry of John Milton, William Shakespeare and Dante Alighieri. They used to contrapose their works to the classical painting school, static and lacking emotion. The main motive of their paintings is motion, sensuality, impetuosity, emotionality, passion.

For most of his creatures, Hughes chose mythological and romantic plots. The inspiration for the picture titled "The Princess Out of School” was the lines John Keats, the English poet, whose work was greatly admired by many Pre-Raphaelites. Keats' poems were filled with admiration for nature and the beauty of the world.

Under the shadow of your beloved home
She is on a bed of fresh flowers ...


The painting “Princess Out of School” depicts a young girl who is shown surrounded by flowers and herbs, and fascinatedly staring at her reflection in the water surface. Her rich attires are scattered in folds on the grass, seeming to merge with the flowering carpet on which the princess lies. Loose hair resembles the bizarre curls of plants of those surrounding the girl, and the floral ornament on her dress further accentuates harmony and unity with nature.

The whole picture seems to shine with a soft, enswathing light - this amazing skill of the painter is actually manifested in all of his works: Edward Hughes is traditionally compared with Renoir, Caravaggio and Kuindzhi , who are considered to be unsurpassed masters of light.

Contrary to the immutable academic rule dictating to write conditional vegetation on a dark background, Hughes covered the canvases with white paint and then painted real, fresh flowers, trees and herbs, hitting the viewer with the perfection of details and their botanical authenticity, among which the subtle and graceful princess seems to be a sort of embodiment of the ancient goddess Flora, willing to have some rest among their lands.

At first glance, the plot of the picture "Princess Out of School" can seem simple, leaving the viewer plenty of room for imagination and reflection. What is the princess thinking of? What dreams are kept in her heart? Who inspired the master and served as a prototype for the princess? As a true Pre-Raphaelite, Hughes speaks to the viewers, using the halftones and hints, and his attentive observation of the ambient world and care to the tiny details allow one to get completely immersed in the contemplation of the painting and feel placidity and harmony with nature.

Throughout the master’s lifetime, not a single personal exhibition of his paintings was arranged, but today his bewitching and magical works have become famous all around the world.
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