Ford Madox Brown and the Victorian Imagination: A Study Session at Manchester Art Gallery

Friday 9 December, 12.30-15.00

Is Ford Madox Brown the most misunderstood and under-appreciated of all the great Victorian artists, writers and public figures? During his lifetime most British commentators tended to recoil from designs they defined as chaotic, confusing or disturbing. A few years later Richard Muther, the eminent German academic, saw compositions ‘without fluency of line or rounded and generalised beauty’ (1907). In the same period, Julius Meier Graefe, the great modernist critic, pointed to what he saw as ‘a mere heap of details uninspired by any artistic purpose which might give them meaning’ (1904). This remained the dominant view until the 1980s when art historians began to use Brown as a way of addressing Victorian attitudes to class, ideology, gender, industrialism, urbanism, nationalism and other social topics. Elsewhere, in more populist readings of Victorian art, he came to be celebrated as the creator of vivid landscapes, portraits and subjects taken from modern life.

This study session, which brings together a number of experts on Victorian art and culture, offers a fresh assessment of Brown’s critical aspirations and artistic achievements. It does so by examining a range of important themes: his engagement with visual traditions of ugliness and the grotesque; his attitude to the representation of living experience, a key aspect of Romantic and Pre-Raphaelite art; his fascination with unruliness in art, life and politics; his treatment of history and the historical imagination; and the broader issue of how he thought about the history of British painting, as exemplified through his engagement with Hogarth and Blake. In sum, by recovering these neglected interests the event aims to reconnect Brown to the expressive and reflective life of the past.


12.30   Welcome & Introduction

12.35   Julian Treuherz (Guest Exhibition Curator, Ford Madox Brown: Pre-Raphaelite Pioneer):

Presenting Ford Madox Brown

12.45   Colin Trodd (UniversityofManchester):

Ford Madox Brown and the William Blake Brotherhood

12.55   Paul Barlow (UniversityofNorthumbria,Newcastle):

Ford Madox Brown and William Hogarth

13.05   Matthew Potter (UniversityofNorthumbria,Newcastle):

Ford Madox Brown andGermany

13.15   Nick Tromans (KingstonUniversity,London):

‘This Sturdy Old Atheist’: Looking for Unbelief in Ford Madox Brown

13.25- 14.00 Discussion of topics emerging from the five talks

14.00-14.30 Break

14.30-15.00 General discussion of Ford Madox Brown and the Victorian Imagination

15.00   Close

Registration details

This FREE study session is open to students and academics.  Places are limited and will be allocated on a first come first served basis. 

To reserve a place please email your details to Connie Witham,, with your name, contact telephone number, email address and name of college/university.

Registration will close on Friday 2 December 2011.


Please note: Lunch and refreshments are not provided but there is a café on site atManchesterArtGallery.




The study session will take place in the Lecture Theatre, on the ground floor atManchesterArtGallery.



Mosley Street

Manchester  M2 3JL 

This study session is to accompany the major exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery

Ford Madox Brown: Pre Raphaelite Pioneer

To 29 January 2011

Tickets:  £8 / £6 Concessions

This autumn, ManchesterArtGallerystages the first major exhibition of Ford Madox Brown’s work since 1964. The show brings together 140 works from public and private collections, including his epic paintings of Victorian life Work and The Last of England. Discover the stories behind the masterpieces and explore Brown’s pioneering role in the Pre-Raphaelite movement.

Buy tickets online at:

Tickets: £8 (£6 concessions, free entry for Friends, Patrons and under-18s)


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