Initially this painting made me feel sad, I thought it was gloomy and depressing, but after looking at it for a while I changed my mind. It is, of course, a representation of the Victorian class system where the artist makes a point about the class divide, but it is also a depiction of hope, the artist expresses his feelings when he added the following quote from Chaucer's 'Troilus and Criseyde when he exhibited his painting in 1859.
'For how myght ever sweetnesse hav be known To hym that never tastyd bitternesse?
Arthur Hughes, an English Pre Raphaelite artist and a book illustrator entitled his work The Long Engagement and in it he depicts a wooded area in the spring.
A young cleric stands with his love, but the scene is not a happy one. Hughes theme is common for its time and as already mentioned it depicts the problems that the Victorian class system caused, Charlotte Bronte writes of the same thing in her wonderful story Jane Eyre. In this case Hughes depicts a lowly cleric and the daughter of a wealthy middle class family who are unable to marry until he has gained a position that would fit their needs socially and financially.
This is the couples dilemma.
But all is not lost for the lovers, Hughes has filled his painting with more positive symbolism than negative. Amy, (we know her name because it is carved into the trunk of the tree) wears two colours, purple for sorrow and green for hope, the ivy that climbs the tree is newly grown and living and therefore we associate it with affection and eternity.
Finally, there is mans best friend, the dog, a traditional symbol of fidelity, protection and faithfulness.
A happy ending maybe?