Ford Madox Brown (1821-1893) was born in Calais and studied art in Antwerp under Egide Charles Gustave Wappers. In 1843 he submitted work to the Westminster Cartoon Competition, for compositions to decorate the new Palace of Westminster. He was not successful. His early works were, however, greatly admired by the young Dante Gabriel Rossetti, who asked him to become his tutor. Through Rossetti, Brown came into contact with the artists who went on to form the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (PRB). Though closely linked to them, he was never actually a member of the brotherhood itself.
Nevertheless, he remained close to Rossetti, with whom he also joined William Morris's design company, Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co., in 1861. He was a close friend of the landscape artist Henry Mark Anthony. Brown was also the main organiser of the Hogarth Club, a short lived replacement for the PRB which existed between 1858 and 1861.
One of his most famous images is "The Last of England", a portrait of a pair of stricken emigrants as they sail away on the ship that will take them from England forever. It was inspired by the departure of the Pre-Raphaelite sculptor Thomas Woolner, who had left for Australia. The painting is structured with Brown's characteristic linear energy, and emphasis on apparently grotesque and banal details, such as the cabbages hanging from the ship's side.
Brown's most important painting was "Work" (1852–1865), which he showed at a special exhibition. It attempted to depict the totality of the mid-Victorian social experience in a single image. Brown's major achievement after "Work" was the "Manchester Murals", a cycle of twelve paintings in the Great Hall of Manchester Town Hall depicting the history of the city. These present a partly ironic and satirical view of Mancunian history.
Brown was married twice. His first wife Elizabeth Bromley died in 1846 aged 27, after giving birth to a daughter Lucy. He later married his model Emma Hill, who appears in many of his paintings and is the wife in "The Last of England".
"Work" (1852-65) Oil on canvas. City Art Gallery, Manchester, UK.
"Romeo and Juliet" (1870) Oil on canvas. Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington, USA.
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"The Last of England" (1855) Oil on panel. Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery, UK.
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"Jesus washing Peter's feet" (1852-56) Oil on panel.
Text source: 'Wikipedia' (www.wikipedia.org).