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

Friday 9 December, 12.30-3.00

You are probably aware that the first major retrospective of Ford Madox Brown is currently being shown at the Manchester Art Gallery and has been receiving positive reviews in the national press. Colin Trodd has assembled an excellent line-up of academics from across the country to come and speak at the MAG on Friday 9th December.

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.

Click below to read more and to see the schedule for the day. Or download the full details here.

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 (University of Manchester):

Ford Madox Brown and the William Blake Brotherhood

12.55 Paul Barlow (University of Northumbria, Newcastle):

Ford Madox Brown and William Hogarth

13.05 Matthew Potter (University of Northumbria, Newcastle):

Ford Madox Brown and Germany

13.15 Nick Tromans (Kingston University, 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