Hughes was born in London on 27 January in 1832.
He entered the School of Design, Somerset House,
in 1846 and studied there under Alfred Stevens.
In 1847 he enrolled in the Antique Schools at
the Royal Academy. He was most strongly influenced
by the work of John Everett Millais, and yet
he didn't meet Millais until 1952, when they
were both displaying paintings titled "Ophelia"
in the Academy exhibition.
Millais' influence is especially seen in the
brilliant colouring and careful attention to
detail. Hughes used several young women as models,
but his favourite was Tryphena Ford. He met
her in 1850, but had to wait five years before
marrying her. His paintings reflecting love
as wistful, tender and even sad may spring from
that long wait. They had a happy and quite fruitful
marriage, producing 6 children (two are shown
in Home from the Sea).