Ford Madox Brown

(6 April 1821 - 6 October 1893)


He was born at Calais and trained at Antwerp (under Wappers), in Paris, and at Rome, where he came into contact with the Nazarenes. Settling in England in 1846, he became a friend of the Pre-Raphaelites and--with his taste for literary subjects and meticulous handling--an influence on their work, though he was never a member of the Brotherhood. Rossetti studied briefly with him in 1848 and Brown's Chaucer at the Court of Edward III (Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 1851) contains portraits of several of the Brotherhood.

His best-known picture, The Last of England (City Art Gallery, Birmingham, 1855) was inspired by the departure of Woolner, the Pre-Raphaelite sculptor, for Australia. The other famous anthology piece that Brown painted, Work (Manchester City Art Gallery, 1852-63), shows his dedicated craftsmanship and brilliant coloring, but is somewhat swamped by its social idealism. In 1861 Brown was a founder member of William Morris's company, for which he designed stained glass and furniture. The major work of the later part of his career is a cycle of paintings (1878-93) in Manchester Town Hall on the history of the city. Brown was an individualist and a man of prickly temperament; he opposed the Royal Academy and was a pioneer of the one-man show.

Though older, Ford Madox Brown sympathised closely with the new Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood formed in 1848, which paralleled his own ideas, though he was never a member. At first an adviser, at least to Rossetti (to whom he provided painting lessons), in turn he was influenced by them.

While at first well received, his work gained little public recognition in the 1850s and the influential Ruskin was antagonistic. In 1853 he married Emma Hill who appears in his two greatest paintings ‘The Last of England’, now in Birmingham Art Gallery, and ‘Work’, now in Manchester Art Gallery.

In 1861 he was a founder-member of the decorating firm of Morris, Marshall, Faulkner and Company, for which he designed some furniture and many stained-glass cartoons, until its re-arrangement as Morris and Co. in 1875. These were influential on his later manner which saw a return to his earlier historical approach combined with a looser more decorative style. b Calais, 16 April 1821; d London, 6 Oct 1893


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