Rossetti Archive Textual Transcription

Document Title: Men of the Time
Author: Kent (publisher)
Date of publication: 1857
Publisher: W. Kent and Co. (late D. Bogue)
Edition: 4th

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Brown, Ford Madox, a Painter whose works may, for the

most part, be fairly classed with the Pre-Raphaelite school, though

some of them preceded its distinct establishment, was born at Calais,

of English parents, in 1821. His career as a student was pursued

chiefly in Belgium and Paris, and some of his earlier works are a

good deal tinged with continental qualities. It was not till 1844

that he took a decided step as an exhibitor in England, by sending

two cartoons to the competition of that year in Westminster Hall.

Though certainly among the most powerful, they were not found in

the list of rewarded works; their somewhat daring realism being

perhaps a little in advance of the year 1844. He was equally suc-

cessful and unsuccessful, in different senses, with another cartoon

and a fresco in the following year. It is very pleasing to find in the

Diary of Haydon, who had a keen eye—none keener—for new facts

in the Art of his day, a tribute to Madox Brown's fresco of this

year, as the finest speciment of that difficult method in the Hall. The

painter now visited Italy, and seems to have arrived at that shifting

period of an artist's life which gives birth to transitions in style, as

we do not find him making any very prominent appearance in our

galleries till 1848, when he sent the fine picture of “Wicliff reading

his Translation of the Scriptures” to the newly-opened Gallery in

Hyde Park. where also, in the following year (1849, the first definite

year of Pre-Raphaelitism), he exhibited “King Lear”—one of his

most characteristic works—and “The Young Mother.” In 1850,

his only exhibited work was a “historical portrait” of Shakspeare.

At the Royal Academy in 1851 he produced his large picture of

“Chaucer reciting his Poetry at the Court of Edward the Third,”

which had been several years in progress. This subject is worked out

with all Madox Brown's peculiar qualities of style, and is probably

more brilliant and truthful in effect of out-door light than any

other painter has attempted to make a work on so large a scale. It

appeared also in the Paris Exhibition of 1855. At the Royal

Academy, in 1852, was first seen his truly noble picture of “Christ

washing Peter's feet” (which in 1856 gained the prize of the

Liverpool Academy, and in 1857 was among the works of the British

School at Manchester), and the rather peculiar little subject entitled

“Pretty Baa-lambs,” much ridiculed at the time by many who could

not appreciate its elaborate and successful study of sunlight in the

open fields. Next to these pictures came the “English Fireside”

in 1853, since which year the painter has not exhibited publicly.

The collection of Pre-Raphaelite works in Russell Place, in 1857,
page: 766

afforded, however, ample proofs that he had not been idle in the

interval. There was the “Last of England,” a truly historical

picture, drawn from the life of our own times, and illustrating

Australian emigration. This is, in our opinion, Madox Brown's

finest work hitherto. In the same collection were various remark-

ably truthful and well-studied landscapes, a branch of art to which

Mr. Brown has of late years given much attention. The principal

among these, an “English Autumn Afternoon” is such a landscape

as could only be produced by one whose mind revelled in colour and

rich combination of material. The specially English—and modern

English—character of this artist's later works, seems to indicate a

new phase of thought in him, and awakens great interest in his

future career.
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Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: ct119.m5.rad.xml