One has just been sent out as a biblical dove, has found nothing green, and slips back
into the darkness of the ark -- Kafka

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Ford Madox Brown (1821 - 1893)

Ford Madox Brown (16 April 1821 – 6 October 1893) was an English painter of moral and historical subjects, notable for his distinctively graphic and often Hogarthian version of the Pre-Raphaelite style. Arguably, his most notable painting was Work (1852–1865). Brown spent the latter years of his life painting the Manchester Murals, depicting Mancunian history, for Manchester Town Hall.


Ford Madox Brown was married twice. His first wife Elizabeth Bromley was his first cousin, the daughter of his mother's sister Mary. They were married in Meopham in Kent in April 1841, shortly before his 20th birthday and less than a year after the sudden death of his sister Elizabeth. They lived in Montmartre in 1841 with Brown's invalid father who died the following summer.

Their first child died young as an infant in November 1842. Their daughter Emma Lucy was born in 1843 and the family moved back to England in 1844. They travelled to Rome in 1845 to alleviate the illness of his wife, who was suffering from consumption (pulmonary tuberculosis). She died in Paris in June 1846, aged 27, on the journey back to England from Rome.

Emma Hill became a frequent model for Brown from 1848; for example, she is the wife in The Last of England. She became his mistress, and they shared a house in London, but social convention made him unable to marry an illiterate daughter of a bricklayer. Their daughter Catherine Emily was born in 1850, and eventually they were married at St Dunstan-in-the-West in April 1853. Their son, Oliver Madox Brown (1855–1874) (known as Nolly) showed promise both as an artist and poet, but died of blood poisoning before his maturity. The death of Nolly was a crushing blow for Brown, and he kept a room for his son's belongings as a shrine. Another son Arthur was born in September 1856. Brown used Arthur as the model for the baby held by a ragged girl in the foreground of Work, but he died aged only ten months old in July 1857.

His daughters Lucy and Catherine were also competent artists. Lucy married William Michael Rossetti in 1874. Catherine, married Francis Hueffer; through Catherine, Brown was the grandfather of novelist Ford Madox Ford and great-grandfather of Labour Home Secretary Frank Soskice.


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