[In this passage from Pre-Raphaelitism and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, Hunt relstes that Ford Madox Brown abandoned the methods of the school of Early Christian art the methods of the PRB. — George P. Landow.]
Ford Madox Brown's manner of work, as I have said, was continually undergoing change. He had, when we first knew him, left behind him the example of Baron Wappers, and gradually, step by step, abandoned the practice of the modern German masters, taking to a closer following of natural composition and intense study of out-of-door effect. In his then more sympathetic mood towards us he was at small pains to conceal the source of this influence. The tracing of Brown's early stages of work will always be the more difficult by reason of the habit he continually indulged of repainting and changing the original character of his design, in part and in whole. He never did this without improvement, nor without giving greater resemblance to our manner of work. With all such changes, however, we can point to his best known pictures to prove the stages of his conversion.
Left to right: (a) The Woodsman's Daughter by J. E. Millais. (b) A Converted British Family sheltering a Christian Priest from the Persecution of the Druid by William Holman Hunt. [Click on these images for larger pictures.]
This new influence may be distinctly traced through all the changes made by later painting. The picture of "Pretty Baa Lambs," painted by Brown in summer or 1851, was strictly the first figure picture he had done in the open air; this was two years after my Christian and Druid picture and my exhibition of "The Two Gentlemen of Verona," and a year after Millais exhibited "The Woodman's Daughter," all three pictures painted with unprecedented care for their landscapes, with the sky serving as the ceiling of our studio.
Brown's little painting called "Waiting," remarkable for its refined pencilling, was also begun in 1850, although not finished till 1854; these works represented the stage he had reached when he, with William Rossetti, visited us at Worcester Park Farm in the autumn of 1851, before Millais or I had seen the work he was then engaged upon. . . . Turning to matters of interest in our own art when Brown cordially complimented us upon the purity and brilliancy of our pictures in the Exhibition Millais, with impulsive forgetfulness of the determination to keep our secret process to ourselves, burst out, "How do you think Hunt and I paint flesh and brilliant passages in oar pictures?" And when Brown showed curiosity to know more he detailed the whole process.
Brown expressed unbounded astonishment and pressed to master exact particulars. When this was done in detail, he became enthusiastic, and with bated breath enlarged on the mystery as nothing less than the secret of the old masters, who thus secured the transparency and solidity together which they had valued so much in fresco, the wet white half dry forming an equivalent to the moist intonaco grounds upon which the master had to do his painting of that day while the surface was still humid. [I, 277-78]
Several men outside our Body were openly working on our lines. Ford Madox Brown with his picture, "The Last of England," was now altogether adopting our principle. The picture of "Work" was also being conducted on our plan, but it still was some years from completion. Wallis was painting his never-to-be-forgotten "Death of Chatterton"; Arthur Hughes was moving forward in remarkable poetic power, as shown by his "April Love"; Windus of Liverpool was also an independent convert. [I, 88]
Ford Madox Brown painted the background of his "Work" from a picturesque part of Hampstead Road, high up towards the Heath. One of the strongest marks of all exhibited Pre-Raphaelite painting, from the time of my "Rienzi," was that the background was not done either from conventional fancy or memory, but from Nature, and if it could be avoided, not indirectly from sketches, but direct from the scene itself on to the canvas of the final picture. Ford Madox Brown's background for "Pretty Baa Lambs" was the first out-of-door figure painting that showed signs of his conversion' to our principles. In its original form —changed some years later—the scene had been copied from a view on Clapham Common, with a very low horizon. The background consisted mainly of blue sky and a" few red cottages, small and distinct, on the fringe of the grazing land. This was a mark of his change of style, and "Work" was still more so. [I, 96]
- “Curious crotchets:” Hunt on Ford Madox Brown's disappointments and character
- Brown's initial “Early Christian” School not Pre-Raphaelitism
- Ford Madox Brown becomes a Pre-Raphaelite convert
Hunt, William Holman. Pre-Raphaelitism and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. 2 vols. New York: Macmillan, 1905.
Last modified 25 October 2012