Perspectives on Ford Madox Brown’s “Work”

26 November 2014 1.00 – 4.00pm

Manchester Art Gallery, Lecture Theatre

‘Perspectives on Ford Madox Brown’s Work’ examines one of the most important paintings produced in the second half of the nineteenth century. This dazzling picture has been identified as a landmark in the development of realism in the visual arts, a key example of the desire to picture modern consciousness, a triumphant representation of working-class life, and the fulfilment of a cultural process to conflate urban experience with the grotesque. Other readings have insisted on thematic affinities between Brown’s image of modern experience and the ideological interests of bourgeois society and the industrial state.

The purpose of this half-day workshop is to encourage students and members of the general public to explore these and other matters by reflecting upon the encyclopaedic comprehensiveness of Brown’s extraordinary composition.

This event coincides with the publication of Ford Madox Brown and the Victorian Imagination (eds., Colin Trodd and Julie Sheldon), a Special Edition of the journal Visual Culture in Britain, which includes contributions by Rebecca Milner, Paul Dobraszczyk, Paul Barlow, and Colin Trodd. In addition, it offers the audience an opportunity to look at Work, the best-known painting in the wonderful collection of art works in the Manchester Art Gallery.

Ford Madox Brown: Work (1851-64)
Ford Madox Brown: Work (1851-64)


1.00-1.10 Introduction: Rebecca Milner (Curator: Collections Access, Manchester Art Gallery)

1.10-1.30 Paul Dobraszczyk (Research Fellow in the History of Art, the University of Manchester)

Men at Work: Visualising Subterranean Labourers in Newspapers in mid-Victorian London

Paul’s publications include: London’s Sewers (2014), Iron, Ornament and Architecture in Victorian Britain (2014) and Into the Belly of the Beast (2009)

1.30- 1.50 Colin Trodd (Senior Lecturer in the History of Art at the University of Manchester):

Work and the Composition of Life

Colin’s publications include:  Visions of Blake: William Blake in the Art World (2012), Blake’s Shadow (2008), Representations of G. F. Watts (with Stephanie Brown) (2004), Art and the Academy in the Nineteenth Century (with Rafael Denis) (2000)

1.50 -2.10 Gavin Budge (Senior Lecturer in English Literature at the University of Hertfordshire)

Work and Psychological Form

Gavin’s publications include: Romanticism, Medicine and the Natural Supernatural: Transcendent Vision and Bodily Spectres, 1789-1852 (2013) and Romantic Empiricism: Poetics and the Philosophy of Common Sense 1780-1830 (2007)

2.10- 2.30 Questions & Answers (Chaired by Rebecca Milner)

2.30- 2.50 Mike Sanders (Senior Lecturer in English Literature at the University of Manchester) Contexts for Work: Chartism and Victorian Culture

Mike’s publications include: The Poetry of Chartism: Aesthetics, Politics, History (Cambridge University Press, 2012); a scholarly edition of Benjamin Disraeli’s first novel Vivian Grey for the Pickering and Chatto series – The Early Novels of Benjamin Disraeli  (2004); a four-volume collection of primary materials, Women and Radicalism in the Nineteenth Century (Routledge 2001); as well as articles in Victorian Poetry, Victorian Periodicals Review, Victorian Literature and Culture, and Women: A Cultural Review.

2.50-3.10. Paul Barlow (Senior Lecturer in the History of Art at the University of Northumbria at Newcastle): Work and the Hogarthian Legacy 

Paul’s publications include: Time Present, Time Past: The Art of John Everett Millais (2005); Governing Cultures (with Colin Trodd) (2001); Victorian Culture and the Idea of the Grotesque (with Colin Trodd), (1999).

3.10 3.30 Questions, Answers & Closing Remarks (Chaired by Rebecca Milner)

3.30- 4.00 Opportunity to look at Ford Madox Brown’s Work in the Pre-Raphaelite Gallery

Places can be booked via Colin Trodd at: