In 1848 Emma Hill became one of Ford Madox Brown’s models. She soon became his mistress, and they moved in together. At first, the relationship was kept secret due to the difference in their social standing: she was a domestic servant, illiterate and the daughter of a bricklayer. Emma was not always well: she suffered from fits and eventually became an alcoholic.
In 1850, Emma had their first daughter, Catherine Emily. His painting, The Pretty Baa-Lambs shows them together. Brown taught Emma to read and write, and they were married on 5 April 1853.
The couple had three children. Brown’s first son, Oliver, was born in 1855, and a second son, Arthur, was born in 1856. In 1857, their son Arthur died tragically of a brain infection. His daughter Cathy became an artist, and married the music scholar and critic, Dr. Franz Hueffer.
Oliver, known as Nolly, became a talented artist and poet, exhibiting and publishing his work. However, in 1874 Oliver died of blood poisoning. As a result of this, Brown became a depressive recluse, keeping a shrine to Oliver in his home.
Brown was never financially successful, which led him to become even more despondent, stating, “Every unlucky man is my brother.” However, he did secure a number of patrons in the late 1850s, and exhibited his works in Liverpool.
During the 1860s he moved towards an integrated approach to fine and decorative arts, and began to design furniture and stained glass. ImageA Study of Arthur Madox Brown, age nine months
, Ford Madox Brown, 1857© Walker Art Gallery, National Museums Liverpool