The Diary of Ford Madox Brown

Ford Madox Brown, Virginia Surtees

Publicaton Date
May 1981
Standard Number
Yale University Press
240 pages

Ford Madox Brown was perhaps the most important and influential associate of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. The diary that he began in 1847 and kept for some twenty years now appears for the first time in a complete and fully annotated edition.

Brought up in Europe, Madox Brown studied painting in Bruges, Ghent, Antwerp and Paris, and returned to England in 1847. His diary is an absorbing and moving chronicle of the life of an impoverished artist striving for acknowledgement and success in mid-nineteenth-century London. Madox Brown’s character was moulded by the harsh circumstances of his life. Without money and seemingly without recognition, a widower with a young child and later a second wife and children, he seemed to many a taciturn and suspicious figure and his diary demonstrates his antagonism toward some of his contemporaries, notably Ruskin, Millais, and the London art trade. But he also speaks in revealing detail of his working life and recounts with enthusiasm his relationships with friends and associates – particularly William Holman Hunt, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and Elizabeth Siddal.

More than defining the contradictions of the man, Madox Brown’s diary records the life of an artist at the centre of events in one of the most interesting periods in the development of English art. As such it is both a scholarly and human document of the first importance.