Ford Madox Brown (1821-1893)

The story has it that the young Rossetti, very keen to become an apprentice to Ford Madox Brown, wrote to him such an effusive letter that Madox Brown felt he was being made a fool of, found a large stick, and went to seek the younger man with violence in mind. On their meeting, however, Madox Brown was convinced of the genuine enthusiasm of Rossetti, and became first his tutor and then lifelong friend.

Madox Brown sympathised closely with the Pre-Raphaelites, although he was never formally one of the brotherhood. Later in life, he said of them:

Strictly speaking, I was not one of them. I was somewhat older than them at the time, and I disavowed certain of their tenets. Before meeting them I had already in Paris resolved on a system of individualised and truer light and shade... about this time also I had an attraction towarlds Holbein, after being once chiefly swayed by Rembrandt. On my meeting the Pre-Raphaelites, I shared their feeling for intense and brilliant colour.
Many of Madox Brown's pictures may be fairly classed as Pre-Raphaelite. His most important picture is Work (two versions exist, at Birmingham and at Manchester), and other major paintings are The Pretty Baa Lambs - a typical Pre-Raphaelite out-of-doors study of light effects, The Last of England, The Coat of Many Colours, Chaucer at the Court of King Edward III, Take Your Son Sir, Stages of Cruelty, and Wycliffe Reading his Translation of the Bible to John of Gaunt. The best collection of his paintings is that at Manchester. Several of his pictures show his wife, Emma Hill, who has a rather round face, and another feature is the brilliantly drawn sneer on the faces of many of his characters.

Madox Brown was a founder member of Morris, Marshall, Faulkner and Co, for which he designed furniture and stained glass windows. He was also the inspiration behind the first Arts and Crafts exhibition. Brown was never the most wildly popular of painters, but was reasonably successful, and in 1878 was commissioned to do the large murals for Manchester Town Hall, a project he just lived to complete.

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