The Valkyre's Vigil

EDWARD ROBERT HUGHES RWS (1851-1914) Biography
PRE-RAPHAELITE (founded 1848) Biography

The Valkyre's Vigil (England, 1906)

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Watercolour and gold paint on Whatman paper
Signed at the lower left E.R.Hughes R.W.S.


101.80cm high
73.70cm wide
(40.08 inches high)
(29.02 inches wide)
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Beryl Kendall, London; sold to:
Suki Marlowe 1965-1986; sold to:
The Leicester Galleries; sold to:
Private Collection


Paul Lang, Richard Wagner, Visions d'artistes, d'Auguste Renoir à Anselm Kiefer, Musée Rath Geneva, September 2005-January 2006, catalogue 43, illustrated page 165

Exhibition History

London, Royal Society of Painters in Water- Colours, Summer Exhibition, 1906, number 68.
Musée Rath Geneva, Richard Wagner, Visions d'artistes, d'Auguste Renoir à Anselm Kiefer, September 2005-January 2006, catalogue 43

Description / Expertise

Edward Robert Hughes was a notable and respected figure amongst the second generation of Pre-Raphaelite artists. Hughes, with a number of his contemporaries, was influenced by and continued to practice the painting techniques pioneered in the middle of the century by members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood; he, like Millais and Holman Hunt, was concerned with qualities of minute realism and bright colour. Hughes maintained these traditions, along with a fondness for romantic and symbolical subjects, well into the Twentieth Century.

Hughes was a nephew of the Pre-Raphaelite painter Arthur Hughes, amongst whose best-known works are April Love, The Long Engagement and Home from the Sea. E.R.Hughes’s early training was received from his uncle and at a later stage he was a student at the Royal Academy Schools. As a young man in the late 1860’s he exhibited watercolours and oils at the Dudley Gallery, which was one of the few contemporary exhibition spaces open to any artist who chose to submit works. In due course Hughes became a regular exhibitor at the Royal Academy, but he was more closely associated with the Grosvenor Gallery, where he exhibited in the 1880’s, and the Royal Water-Colour Society, to which body he was elected an associate in 1891 and a member in 1895, and where the present watercolour was first shown in 1906. In these two exhibition spaces the delicacy and detail of Hughes's work was better appreciated than at the Royal Academy.

Hughes’s friend, and mentor in artistic matters, was William Holman Hunt (Hughes’s obituary in The Times refers to him as Hunt’s 'son in art'). When Hunt’s eyesight began to suffer towards the end of his life Hughes worked for him as an assistant and was responsible for completing the life-size final version of The Light of the World (now in St.Paul’s Cathedral).

Walter Crane, who had known Hughes since the 1860’s when they were fellow exhibitors at the Dudley Gallery, wrote of his friend: 'Edward Robert Hughes must be named as another of our early friends who has since won a distinguished position as a painter, carrying on, from his uncle, Arthur Hughes, the traditions of the Pre-Raphaelite painters. Now a member of the Royal Society of Painters in Water Colours, having held the position of deputy-President, his work is always in evidence in their exhibitions, often highly romantic and fanciful in subject, decorative in effect, and very highly wrought in transparent colour.' (An Artist’s Reminiscences, 1907, page 88)

The present watercolour is imbued with an extraordinary and phantasmagoric character, and may be seen as an Edwardian contribution to European Symbolism. Its subject The Valkyrie’s Vigil shows one of Odin’s war-maidens who, in Scandinavian mythology, hovered over battlefields selected those warriors who were to die and conducted them to Valhalla. Hughes was certainly influenced in his choice of subject, which he returned to on several occasions, by Richard Wagner’s Die Walkure, the second opera of The Ring, which had been first performed in London in 1882.