The Story Behind Midsummer Eve painting

Before we try to understand this work of art, let us dive into the artist who drew the art. This would help us to view the painting from his angle, and also, we will be able to understand and appreciate this masterpiece even more.

Midsummer Eve was painted by Edward Robert Hughes, an artist well known for his creativity in the use of watercolors. He is often confused with Edward Hughes who is another well-known painter known for his portrait paintings. Edward Robert Hughes is renowned for two paintings- Midsummer Eve, and Night with her Train of Stars. In this article, we will discuss the former masterpiece, Midsummer Eve.

The Life of Edward Robert Hughes

Hughes (5th of November 1851 – 23rd of April 1914) was the son of Edward Hughes Snr. He lived with his uncle Arthur Hughes in the 1860s, who is another popular Pre-Raphaelitism painter. These artists (Pre-Raphaelites) hold a belief of rejecting the mannerist approach adopted by artists who succeeded great artists like Raphael and Michelangelo claiming it corrupts the true teaching of art—hence, “Pre-Raphaelites”. At a very early age (two and a half), he already drew a portrait of his uncle, Arthur Hughes.

Being influenced by the Pre-Raphaelitism way in his art, he was still able to harness Aestheticism (a form of art movement laying emphasis on the aesthetic values) in his works. He also became a studio assistant to a Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood founder, William Holman Hunt, and made lots of great contributions to some of Hunt’s paintings.

As a perfectionist, he used to do lots of research before painting, thereby, enhancing key attention to detail in his works. A gamut of his masterpieces were also based on Shakespeare’s themes bringing those imaginations to life. Ironically, Edward Robert Hughes’s works’ popularity in the excellent use of watercolors overshadows that of the artist himself. He died after surgery in 1914 trying to cure his appendicitis.

About Midsummer Eve (1912)

From the first glance of this painting, what is noticed is the glow of light that captures the eyes from the bottom of the painting, and a woman leaning, staring at it. Looking further, you will notice that the light is from luminescent creatures trying to draw the lady’s attention in the quiet, warm evening background.

Hughes showed lots of beautiful items in this painting using watercolors. The painting’s name, Midsummer Eve, is traditionally a night where young maidens dance around lit fires and wish and pray, for true love. It is the shortest night of the year, and Hughes was able to show and bring to life that evening background contrast with several bright colors of light.

More details of the painting show Eve (the red-headed lady in the painting) wearing a bouquet of blue flowers, and a belt of pink flowers staring down looking at some creatures. The creatures are identified to be cherubs, imps, and fireflies emitting light. The whole painting creates a romantic fairytale that shows great colors and deep meaning earning its fame among great paintings.

Story Behind the Painting

While there are few tales regarding this painting, most opinions agree upon two things. The first depicting the story that comes with the name of the painting, Midsummer Eve. But in this case, Hughes had a fairytale to it. The fire was replaced by cherubs and fireflies, and the young lady leans towards it as though she is making a wish to her one true love.

The second more agreed story is based on Shakespearean themes, as much of his work was based on these themes. Midsummer Eve was matched to a Shakespeare’s play, Midsummer Night’s dream which is about the pairing of lovers on a magical midsummer’s evening. Linking both works, much sense can be made as the lady in the painting can be Hermia from Shakespeare’s play who gets lost in the forest, and finds herself in the midst of fairies surrounding her.

The second theory seems more appropriate though, and the lady in the painting does not seem surprised at the fairies at all. It was as if she was expecting them all along to guide her on her lost path (hence the leaning to hear their whispers). This painting shows great value to Aestheticism both in details as well as beauty.

As an excellent artist, Edward Robert Hughes delighted the world with his great use of watercolors and Aestheticism. His death was viewed as the end of the Pre-Raphaelite era as he was of the last artists that were influenced by this view. One of his best works, Midsummer Eve painting is a great piece that soothes the mind with the sensational effect and message it brings.


Such remarkable paintings are treasures to be kept and are usually redrawn or recreated by other artists and painters. An excellent place to get paintings redrawn would be 1sr Art Gallery with the highest user satisfaction and great feedback in the world. Art is meant to be felt, expressed, and shared with the world, so this article was meant to share a remarkable art, Midsummer Eve, to YOU.