Hughes was born in Dublin and educated at North Richmond Street Columbia Broadcasting System.
He then studied further in Italy.
He entered the Metropolitan School of Art in Dublin in 1878 and trained as a part-time student for ten years. He was appointed as teacher to the Metropolitan School of Art in Dublin in 1894 and in 1902 became Professor of Sculpture in the Royal Hibernian Academy School. His last residence in Dublin was at 28 Lennox Street, Portobello.