Arthur Hughes' painting, April Love is an excellent visual representation of the ideals set forth with John Ruskin's "Of Truth of Color," which work was very significant in providing direction, meaning and inspiration to the PRB. although Hughes himself was not a member of the inner circle of the PRB, he became exposed to and very interested in the works of Rosetti, Hunt, and Maddox Brown, and in 1850 his works began to emulate the style and meaning found within Pre-Raphaelite works. April Love, which was created in 1855, was lauded by Ruskin himself, who declared it to be "exquisite in every way; lovely in color, most subtle in the quivering expression of the lips, and the sweetness of the tender face, shaken like a leaf by winds upon its dew, and hesitating back into peace" (Wood p. 53). The vibrancy of the colors and the delicate transparency of her scarf suggest not only a startling likeness to nature but a reverence for the brilliant colors and minute details present within nature itself-all captured within a specific moment through the utilization and application of color (rather than the traditional use of form). In addition to the craftsmanship of the details of the leaves and her dress, the hidden detail of her lover grasping her hand remains a secret bound within the application of color, as it his dark face that allows him to recede into the unassuming foliage. Thus, the viewer is captured solely by the aura and emotion of love itself, an instant as sudden as the ever-changing colors in nature, captured and "shaken like a leaf by winds upon its dew, and hesitating back into peace."
April Love was exhibited at the 1856 Royal Academy with a quotation from Tennyson's "The Miller's Daughter":
Love is hurt with jar and fret,
Love is made a vague regret,
Eyes with idle tears are set,
Idle habit links us yet;
What is love? For we forget.
Ah no, no.
Therefore, in addition to portraying Ruskin's ideals regarding color, Hughes also represents his affinity for the idea of the "sister arts."
1. Does the text from Tennyson's poem relate in any way to the idea of capturing a single moment specifically through the use of color (color being symbolic or figurative)? In this instance specifically, what is the relationship between word and color and nature in terms of art -- what does (or would) Ruskin believe?
2. Ruskin's ideas regarding color bring to mind the ideas of the American Transcendentalists of the time. Does the use of color and light, in this painting specifically, begin to illustrate some of the spiritual language used by Ruskin within his writings? Comments on this connection?
3. Is there any evidence of typological symbolism within this piece? The position and direction of the figure, placement of the lover, minute details, expression, setting, and foliage. What do you believe the artist was aiming to represent?
Wood, Christopher. The Pre-Raphaelites. New York: Studio/Viking, 1981.
Last modified 16 September 2004