BROWN, Ford Madox
(b. 1821, Calais, d. 1893, London)


Oil on canvas, 137 x 197 cm
City Art Gallery, Manchester

Ford Madox Brown had a wide knowledge of continental history painting, but had been particularly impressed by the medievalism of the Nazarenes. His early pictures show him trying to combine such medievalism with the naturalist tradition, giving his work a vigour that was readily appreciated by the younger Pre-Raphaelites.

This ambitious composition can be described as a "real allegory." To paint his chosen location (in the north London suburb of Hampstead), he had carried his huge canvas and set it up in situ throughout the summer of 1852. Hence the sunlight that illuminates some of the protagonists (the "navvies," the orphans with their big sister, and, in the distance on the right, the people carrying election posters), while in the shade of the trees the artist portrays a wealthy couple on horseback and, on the other side of the railings, a family of Irish tramps. On the far right, observing this spectacle of the entire social spectrum, we recognize Thomas Carlyle and Frederick Denison Maurice, whose ideas are illustrated here.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.