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Biography for Ford Madox Brown

Born:1821 - Calais, France


Artist. Son of a ship's purser and born in Calais. In the late 1830s Brown trained in Bruges and Ghent before studying under Baron Gustave Wappers (1803-1874) at the Antwerp Academy. He was a leading figure in the development of Pre-Raphaelite painting.

In 1845, Brown travelled to Rome, via Basel. The works he saw on this trip fostered his interest in medievalism. He settled in London in 1846. He exhibited paintings alongside Pre-Raphaelites between 1849 and 1853, and was an important influence on artists such as Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882) and Frederick Sandys (1829-1904).

Brown might have become a member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, but he preferred to work independently of the movement. Painting in a realistic and intense style, his works dealt with modern life and contemporary social issues, as well as expansive historical subjects. He became a valued designer of stained glass and furniture for Morris, Marshall, Faulkner and Company, but was ousted in favour of Edward Burne-Jones (1833-1898) in 1875.

Brown received a commission for six (later increased to twelve) large frescoes for the new Town Hall at Manchester in 1878. This large undertaking occupied him for a significant remainder of his working life. Brown's 'The Last of England' (1855) was bought for Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery in 1891.

Brown married his cousin Elizabeth Bromley in 1844. She died in 1846 leaving an infant daughter. He married Emma Hill in 1853. Ford's diary, running from 1847 to 1850 and from 1854-1858, provides a rare insight into the life of a 19th century painter.

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