Biography (1821 - 1893)

Header Painting: Millie Smith, 1846 (Detail)
Ford Madox Brown

Oil on paper laid on panel, 90.16 in x 68.9 in
Walker Art Gallery
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Ford Madox Brown ~ Biography

Painter (1821 - 1893)

Born: 16 April 1821
Birth place: Calais, France
Date of death: 6 October 1893
Place of death: London, UK
Buried: St Pancras & Islington Cemetery, London, UK

Lordy, reading about the first thirty years of Ford Madox Brown's life, you cannot help but feel epressed. I mean, he sounds like a guy from a Kaurismaki movie where everything, and I mean everything, goes wrong. Listen to this: at 18 his older sister dies; at 19 it's the turn of his mother; and at 21 his father dies as well.

If that wasn't tragedy enough, there's more. At 19 he marries Elisabeth but their first born child dies. Then, to complete the picture of misery, at the age of 25, his wife dies whilst they're travelling to Paris.

The other chapters of his life are more mundane.

He's born in Calais to British parents. At 19 he moves to Paris but comes to London in 1844 to compete against other artists to decorate the inside of the Houses of Parliament. He isn't successful. Two years later he leaves London for Rome.

He returns to London in 1848, meets a new model for his work, Emma Hill (who he later marries and has 2 children with), and begins to teach Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Rossetti becomes a lifelong friend and admirer of Brown's work. Whilst Rossetti goes on to form the Pre-Raphaelite art movement, and Brown becomes closely involved with them, he never actually becomes a proper member of the movement.

He settles with his family in north London. It is in this period that he perfects the technique of bright colours in his work and becomes known for his painstaking methods of work.

It is not until he's in his 40s that he becomes really fashionable, with a myriad of commissions for his work. By the 1870s he is successful enough financially to purchase a house in fashionable Fitzroy Square in London which in turn becomes a hang out for artists and writers.

Another tradegy strikes him when his son, Oliver, dies when he is 19.

Brown spends his final years creating huge wall paintings in Manchester's Town Hall. He dies at the age of 72 in 1893.

Ford Madox Brown ~ Trivia

Source: Victorian Painting. Book, 2003. Probaly the most beautifully presented book on art I have ever seen. A treasure, a marvel, a triumph of printed matter. Everyone who loves Victorian painting should have a copy - it is that good.

The Pre Raphaelite Brotherhood was formed by Rosetti, Holman Hunt, Millais, James Collinson, the sculptor Thomas Woolner, Frederick George Stephens and Rossetti's brother William Michael (1829 - 1919), who became the historian of the gropu's activities. Ford Maddox Brown, an elder statesman, was never actually a member.

The Expulsion of the Danes from Manchester, 910 AD was completed between 1879 and 1893. A fresco, it measures 145.9 x 317.1cm and is, of course, in the Great Hall, Manchester Town Hall.

Brown was a socialist.

He was part of the last Pre Raphaelite mural scheme which was begun in 1877. That was for the Great Hall in the just built Gothic Town Hall in Manchester. Part of his preparations for [ainting twelve large wall decorations illustrating the history of Manchester was to visit Antwerp to examine Baron Leys's recent wall paintings at the Hotel de Ville.

Ford Madox Brown was one of the teachers in London of Albert Goodwin (1845 - 1932).

He was the model for the figure of the carter in Rossetti's Found.

Born in Calais, he had studied at the Academies of Bruges, Ghent and Antwerp.

Inspired by Holbein.

His painting Chaucer at the Court of Edward III was first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1851. Just before the sending-in day in April 1851 Rossetti sat from eleven o'clock at night till four in the morning for the portrait of Chaucer which dominates the piece. It now resides in the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney.

Work was begun in 1852 and returned to between 1856 and 1865. It now resides in the Manchester City Art Gallery.

An English Autumn Afternoon, Hampstead - Scenery in 1853 now resides at the Birmingham City Museum and Art Gallery. It originally was part of an exhibition of contemporary British art that toured America between 1857 - 8.

The English Boy, now in Manchester City Art Gallery, was of his second son, Oliver.

His maid posed for Rossetti's Girl at a Lattice (1862).

The epic The Last of England was begun in 1852. It was inspired by the emigration of the sculptor Thomas Woolner (1825 - 92) to seek his fortune in the goldfields of Australia on 24 July 1852 on the ship Windsor. In 1854, 369,000 Britons left for overseas. He used himself as the model for the man and his second wife Emma Hill (whom he married in 1853) as the woman. It is their own baby's tiny hand that can be seen held by the woman.

The Last of England, oil on wood, 82.5 x 75cm, resides at the Birmingham City Museum and Art Gallery.

It was painted for the most part in the open air. Details in the picture include the White Cliffs of Dover. He virtually completed the picture on 2nd September 1855. It is the man's face, the tragic intensity of his gaze, which is alive and revelant in today's world as that day it was created so long ago. The book Victorian Painting below has a letter Brown wrote about all the figures in the painting and gives great insight on the context of the painting which I'm truly glad I read.

Further Reading: Victorian Painting [Book, 2003]

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Ford Madox Brown: Pre-Raphaelite Pioneer [Book, 2011]
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