Lordy, reading about the first thirty years of Ford Madox Brown's life, you cannot help but feel bloody depressed. 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
FORD MADOX BROWN
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