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Edward Hughes (1832-1908)

Queen Mary (1867-1953) when Victoria Mary, Duchess of York Signed and dated 1895

Oil on canvas | 188 x 139.7 cm (support, canvas/panel/str external) | RCIN 405365

Vestibule , Buckingham Palace

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  • In 1895 Edward Hughes received his first royal commission to paint the Duchess of York, later Queen Mary. Alice Hughes's biography of her father recalls that…'the picture was intended as a surprise for the family and the sittings were arranged privately'. It was subsequently shown at Agnew's where it was a tremendous success, drawing enormous crowds. (My Father and I, 1923). Three sittings to the artist in his studio are recorded in May 1895 and on the 3 July her diary notes that she 'Went with G to see my picture by Hughes at Agnew's Gallery'.

    Like many artists of the late Victorian period Hughes had begun his career as a subject painter, turning to the more lucrative field of society portraiture in the mid-1870s. His reputation was sealed following the success of a portrait of Jeannie Chamberlain (later Lady Naylor-Leyland) exhibited at Agnew's in 1886; numerous prestigious commissions followed. It was after a visit to this exhibition that Princess Alexandra expressed her wish also to be painted by the artist (RCIN 402355).

    Hughes' debt to Reynolds, whom he greatly admired, can be seen in the naturalistic outdoor setting; the Duchess sits on a carved stone beneath a chestnut tree. However, the artist had also studied in Paris, under the realist painter Leon Bonnat (1833-1922), and was aware of developments in contemporary European art.

    Provenance

    Commissioned by Queen Mary, when Duchess of York, 1895

  • Medium and techniques

    Oil on canvas

    Measurements

    188 x 139.7 cm (support, canvas/panel/str external)

    233.0 x 172.2 x 9.4 cm (frame) (frame, external)

  • Category