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Painting, The Rift Within the Lute, 1861-1862, Arthur Hughes (1832-1915)

  • The Rift with the Lute

More Info

A beautiful woman wearing a richly coloured dress and cloak lies full-length on the ground in woodland with a lute beside her. Hughes based the subject loosely on ‘The Idylls of the King’ poems dated 1856-1885 by Alfred Tennyson which retell the legend of King Arthur.

Unhappy love is the theme of the painting. Love is symbolised by music in the form of the lute. Constancy is symbolised by the bunch of bluebells placed on the lute.

Hughes used his own wife Tryphena as the model. He also designed the ivy leaf picture frame.

Arthur Hughes is a major late Pre-Raphaelite painter and this is one of his masterpieces. It captures much that preoccupied him as an artist: his favourite woodland setting, romantic love and a rich colour palette.


Key facts: 
  • The painting is based on a poem about King Arthur, 'The Idylls of the King' by Alfred Tennyson.
  • The artist used his wife as a model. The theme is unhappy love, using the lute and the bluebells to symbolise love and constancy
  • The Pre-Raphaelites were founded by artists Hunt, Millias and Rossetti. They believed that art should be re-defined from the classical models of Raphael and Michaelangelo, rather than a continuation of this style, and that this model had influenced teaching of art too much.

Curator: Melanie

Fine and Decorative Art

I’m responsible for the art collections in the museum which cover fine art (paintings, watercolours, drawings, prints, sculpture) dating from 1650

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