Social conscience

Ford Madox Brown, Work, DetailBrown’s social conscience is evident throughout his life and work. He taught drawing at a working men’s college in the late 1850s, and also designed a badge for a boys’ orphanage. He was said to have disliked all obvious signs of luxury and privilege.

In 1859, he established a soup kitchen with his wife Emma. He was also concerned with the plight of those involved in the cotton famine that devastated trade in Lancashire during 1862, and he donated money to charities supporting the workers.

In 1886, Brown went to a meeting in Manchester for unemployed people and tried to set up an office to help them find work.

Despite being agnostic, Brown attended church and he often used Biblical quotations and imagery in his work. He agreed with the Reverend Maurice’s desires to improve the lives of the working classes. He also read works such as Past and Present by the socialist writer Thomas Carlyle. 


Emma died on 11 October 1890 and Ford Madox Brown died of gout on 6 October 1893. He was buried in the St Pancras and Islington cemetery in London.

The Cotton Famine
Thomas Carlyle

Detail from Work, Ford Madox Brown, 1852-1865
© Manchester Art Gallery