Arthur Hughes (1832-1915) entered the Royal Academy Schools in 1847, obtaining a silver medal two years later. In that same year he exhibited his first finished painting, Musidora, at the Royal Academy. In 1850 he first discovered the works of the Pre-Raphaelites and went on to adopt their techniques and subject matter. He was particularly inspired by the works of Millais and Rossetti. His two best known works are probably The Eve of St Agnes and April Love.
Throughout the 1850s and 1860s he continued to paint minutely detailed and highly coloured lyrical and romantic subjects. From 1865 onwards he worked mainly as an illustrator of children's books, producing some fine illustrations for a series of fairy tales by George Macdonald, drawings for Tennyson's Enoch Arden, and for Christina Rossetti's Poems for Children.
The Long Engagement depicts a curate and his fiancée in a woodland setting. The title refers to middle class social conventions of the time, in particular the fact that the parents of a girl engaged to a poorly paid curate would typically not allow the marriage until he had secured a more remunerative position within the church hierarchy. The girl is depicted looking at her own name (Amy) carved, some while ago, into the trunk of the tree by her fiancé as an expression of his love. The carving, however, is about to be covered by rambling ivy growing up the trunk; ethereal youthful passion is becoming lost to worldly capitalist demands. It can be said that this symbolism reflects the stark realities of late 1850s and 1860s Victorian England.
the above text appears on the back of the card HC-1045: card size 7" x 5" (178mm x 131mm)