Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Hughes, Hugh (1790?-1863)

HUGHES, HUGH (1790?–1863), artist, born at Pwllygwichiad, near Llandudno, son of Thomas Hughes, by Jane, his wife, was baptised at Llandudno, according to the parish register, 20 Feb. 1790. He lost his parents in childhood, and was educated by his maternal grandfather, Hugh Williams of Meddiant Farm, Llansantffraid Glan Conwy, Denbighshire. In due time Hughes was apprenticed to an engraver at Liverpool. From Liverpool he removed to London as an improver,and took lessons in oil–painting. The earliest known specimen of his handiwork is a portrait (dated 1812) of the Rev. John Evans (1723-1817) of Bala, which was engraved in vol. iii. of the 'Drysorfa.' He spent three years (1819-22) at Meddiant Farm, working at his 'Beauties of Cambria,' his best–known work. Hughes returned to London after 1823. He was a radical in religion and politics, and signed a petition in favour of the passing of the Catholic Emancipation Bill about 1828. The London leaders of the Welsh Calvinistic body, to which he belonged, thereupon expelled him from their communion. Hughes denounced this act of intolerance in many pamphlets and in letters to 'Seren Gomer' (1828–30) with such effect that at a meeting of delegates of the Calvinistic methodists held at Bala in 1831 a resolution was passed deprecating interference with the exercise of political rights. Hughes was not, however, reinstated as member of the denomination. After a time he went over to the independents, and later to the Plymouth Brethren. In 1832 he wrote much, under the pseudonym 'Cristion,' on church establishments and tithes in controversy with the Rev. Evan Evans [Ieuan Glan Geirionydd]. He died at Great Malvern 11 March 1863, and was buried in the cemetery there. He married after 1823 a daughter of the Rev. David Charles of Carmarthen. Mrs. Hughes died at Aberystwyth 28 Dec. 1873. Their three children died young.

Hughes's chief woodcuts appear in his 'Beauties of Cambria,' Carmarthen, 1823, in which all the views were engraved by himself, fifty-eight from his own drawings. In his knowledge of natural form and masterly handling of the graver Hughes has been compared to Bewick. His treatment of natural objects was realistic, minute, and laborious, and his foliage is always truthful and graceful. He also made many lithographs of Welsh scenery. Caricatures by him of the commissioners of education sent down to Wales (1846-7) are very characteristic. Several of his sketches, including a map of North Wales under the name 'Dame Venedotia,' 'Pitt's Head' near Beddgelert, and others of the neighbourhood of Snowdon, were published at Carnarvon. His sketch of 'Pwllheli and St. Tudwall's Road' is in Humphrey's 'Book of Views.' Many specimens of his work are in country houses about Carnarvon.

Hughes also published: 1. 'Hynafion Cymreig,' a work on Welsh antiquities, Carmarthen, 1823, 8vo. 2. 'Y Trefnyddion a'r Pabyddion,' 1828(?). 3. Lectures delivered before the London Cymmrodorion in 'Seren Gomer,' 1831. 4. 'Y Papur Newydd Cymreig,' 1836 (a Welsh newspaper), wrongly ascribed to another in 'Cardiff Eisteddfod Transactions,' 1883. 5. 'Y Drefn i Ddyogelu purdeb Bywyd,' 1849. 6. 'The Genteelers,' a sarcastic political pamphlet. 7. 'Yr Eglwys yn yr Awyr,' an essay in 'Traethodydd,' 1853. He also edited three volumes of sermons by his father-in-law, David Charles; that published in 1846 contained a memoir, and projected a reprint of the 'Brut' in twenty numbers, of which only one appeared.

[Mr. T. H. Thomas in Red Dragon, May 1887; 'Cymru Fu ' column in Weekly Mail; Seren Gomer, 1828–32; Ymofynydd, 1890; private information.]

R. J. J.