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Public Statues and Sculpture Association

Ford Madox Brown (1821–1893)

Painter and designer born at Calais, the son of a ship’s purser. Brown trained under Gustaf, Baron Wappers at Antwerp academy. In 1841, he married Elisabeth Bromley, a first cousin. The couple returned to England in 1844 and in 1845 travelled to Rome in an unsuccessful search for a cure for Elisabeth’s consumption; she died on the return journey in Paris in 1846. Despite Brown’s profound grief, the trip nevertheless exercised a lasting stylistic influence on his painting, having allowed him to see Italian Renaissance painting first-hand and to meet key members of the German Nazarene group living in Rome. Following his return to England, Brown was approached by the young Dante Gabriel Rossetti who had seen and admired his latest painting, Wycliffe (1847–48; Cartwright Hall, Bradford). Rossetti became Brown’s pupil and the two became lifelong friends; Rossetti modelled for the figure of Geoffrey Chaucer in Brown’s painting, Chaucer at the Court of Edward III (1846–51; Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney). Following Rossetti’s death, Brown designed and modelled the headstone, 1883–84, for his friend’s grave in the churchyard of All Saints, Birchington-on-Sea, Kent, and the bust for his memorial drinking fountain on Chelsea Embankment. Although Brown never became a member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, he was sympathetic to their aims and closely associated with them. The theme of his first major painting, The Last of England (1852–55; Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery) was inspired by Pre-Raphaelite brother Thomas Woolner’s attempted emigration to Australia in 1852 and in 1874 his daughter, Emma Lucy, married Dante Gabriel’s brother, William Michael Rossetti. Brown’s association with Rossetti also led to his becoming a founder member of the firm of Rossetti’s friend William Morris, for whom he designed stained glass and furniture (see, for example, his Egyptian-style chair, 1860–61, V&A, no. W.13–1985).

Bibliography: Art Gallery NSW; B. Barringer, ‘Brown, Ford Madox (1821–1893)’, ODNB, Oxford, 2004; T. Cavanagh, Public Sculpture of Kensington and Chelsea with Westminster South-West, Watford, 2023, pp. 10–14; V&A Search the Collections.

Terry Cavanagh November 2022

Brown, Ford Madox

Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Ford Madox Brown, 31 January 1867, pencil on paper (photo: public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)