Arthur Hughes (1830-1915)
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Arthur Hughes (1830-1915)

The Crowning of Caedmon

Arthur Hughes (1830-1915)
The Crowning of Caedmon
signed 'ARTHUR HUGHES' (lower left)
pencil and coloured chalks, lightly squared, on buff-coloured paper
14 ½ x 14 in. (36.8 x 35.6 cm.)
The MacDonald family.
with The Stone Gallery, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, where purchased by William E. Fredeman c. 1971.
L. Roberts, Arthur Hughes: His Life and Works, Woodbridge, 1997, p. 234, no. 398, illustrated.
Newcastle-upon-Tyne, The Stone Gallery, Some Works from Stock, 1970, no. 25 (as 'Fairy Tales'); re-exhibited 1971, no. 48.
Vancouver, Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver Collects, 1993, no. 49.
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Lot Essay

Generally perceived as the father of Anglo-Saxon poetry, Caedmon was an untaught layman who entered the great 'double' monastery at Whitby, Northumberland, some time after its foundation by St Hilda in AD658. His story is told by the Venerable Bede in his Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation. According to the chronicler, Caedmon had a remarkable God-given ability to express scripture in verse, and Hughes imagines a scene in which his companions, recognising his genius, crown him with a laurel wreath. The drawing dates from c. 1900-10 and anticipates Caedmon's Awakening, an oil painting that Hughes executed in 1912-14 (private collection; L. Roberts, op. cit., p. 244, no. 478.; p. 120, col. pl. 109.). He had been a close friend of William Bell Scott and Scott's partner Alice Boyd, and although they had died in the 1890s, it is possible to detect their influence in his attachment to the Caedmon legend. Both had painted many subjects from Northumbrian history, Scott in his masterpiece, the murals that he carried out for Sir Walter and Lady Trevelyan at Wallington Hall between 1856 and 1861.

The drawing belonged to the family of the author George MacDonald, with whom Hughes was closely associated. He illustrated many of MacDonald's novels and children's stories, and the artist Edward Robert Hughes, his nephew, was engaged for four years to MacDonald's second daughter, Mary, before her death in 1878.

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