Staines, Surrey, England CALMG : 1949.125.23 oil painting

The Rift Within the Lute 1861-62 by Arthur Hughes.

Hughes specialised in images of romantic love and this is an excellent example of this subject. A beautiful woman is shown making music which Hughes’ often used to express romantic love. She is wearing a richly coloured blue gown and purple cloak and has a lute at her side.The bunch of bluebells placed on the lute signify constancy in the language of flowers. Hughes used his own wife, Tryphena, as the model. She is shown in one of his favourite natural poses - lying full-length on the ground. Hughes cleverly brings the model in close contact with the viewer by making her fill the picture space. The painting includes Hughes’ favourite woodland setting as the background. Hughes’ accurate depiction of nature and glowing colours are intended to increase the emotional intensity of the painting.

Like many of Hughes’ paintings, The Rift within the Lute, was inspired by poetry. It is set in the Middle Ages and its title is taken from Tennyson’s ‘Merlin & Vivien’ from his ‘Idylls of the King’ published in 1859 which retells the legend of King Arthur. Rather than creating a precise illustration, Hughes used this poem to evoke a mood. Arthur Hughes is a major late Pre-Raphaelite painter and The Rift within the Lute is one of the best examples of his work. It captures much that preoccupied him as artist: his favourite woodland setting, romantic love and a rich colour palette.

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