Ford Madox Brown moved to Paris for three years in 1841. It was here that he first engaged with the Realist movement, whilst continuing with his penchant for historical painting. In the following years, he entered several design competitions but was unsuccessful.
During 1845-6, Brown went to Italy via Basel where he came across the work of Hans Holbein (1497/8 – 1543). He also came into contact with the Nazerenes, a group of German painters based in the city. The Nazarenes pre-dated the Pre-Raphaelites and the two movements had much in common.
He returned to England in 1846, where he settled in London and became friends with several younger artists. Amongst these were Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828 – 1892) and William Holman Hunt (1827 – 1910) who were to form the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in 1848. Brown was also a friend of William Morris (1834 – 1896), the poet, artist, designer and socialist. Brown spent some time working for Morris designing stained glass, and it was Morris who inspired some of Brown’s socialist ideals.
As an artist, Brown was considered to be anti-establishment. Although he never joined the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, they were closely linked and he often exhibited with them. Image
Detail from Work, Ford Madox Brown, 1852 - 1865 © Manchester Art Gallery