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Ford Madox Brown collection

Call Number: MS 206


This collection consists of letters and exhibit catalogs concerning British painter and designer Ford Madox Brown (1821-1893), compiled originally by University of Kansas English Department faculty member William Doremus Paden.


  • 1855 - 1889


Conditions Governing Access

No access restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Spencer Library staff may determine use restrictions dependent on the physical condition of manuscript materials.

Biography of Ford Madox Brown (1821-1893)

Ford Madox Brown was born in Calais, France, the son of Ford and Caroline Brown. The family had moved to Calais due to financial circumstances, though they traveled back and forth between France and England throughout Brown's childhood. Ford Madox Brown's grandfather, John Brown (1735?-1788) was a medical doctor with a marked hostility toward both social superiors and professional peers, and his influence over his grandson probably affected Brown's own anti-establishment leanings.

Brown early showed a talent for drawing and painting, and the family moved to Bruges, Brussels in 1835 to aid Brown's artistic studies. The next few years saw Brown moving between Bruges, Ghent, and Antwerp for his studies, and his friendship with Irish artist Daniel Casey influenced Brown's belief that history paintings should engage with moral and political issues of the time in which the paintings were created.

After the death of Brown's sister Eliza, or Lyly, in 1840, Brown married his older cousin Elisabeth (1818/1819-1846) in 1841 in Kent, England. Brown, his wife, and his invalid father--Brown's mother having died in 1839--moved to Montmartre in order for Brown to find patronage in Parisian circles. Both Brown's father and first child died in 1842. The Browns' second daughter, Emma Lucy Madox Brown, who later married into the Rossetti family, was born in 1843.

The Browns moved briefly back to England, where Ford Madox Brown submitted pieces for several public artwork competitions. In the mid-1840s, they traveled to Rome to aid Elisabeth's failing health, but she died in Paris in 1846. Brown became acquainted with several members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, briefly serving as teacher and remaining a lifelong friend with Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and adopting some of William Holman Hunt's and John Everett Millais' techniques.

Ford Madox Brown continued painting historical scences throughout his career, as well as landscapes from nature and modern-life paintings, including notably Work, begun in 1852 but not completed until 1863. This piece engaged with the intellectual ideas of the Reverend F.D. Maurice and Thomas Carlyle and lauded the work of manual laborers.

Brown found patronage in northern England and displayed his works, as well as organizing displays of other pre-Raphaelite artists, in the United Kingdom and the United States. In 1858 Brown helped establish the Hogarth Club, created in honor of William Hogarth and as an alternative to the Royal Academy. While the club had great success at first, members including William Morris, Gabriel Rossetti, and Edward Burne-Jones, it collapsed in 1861.

Brown began designing furniture and stained glass in the 1860s, becoming a partner in Morris, Marshall, Faulkener & Company when it was founded in 1861. Brown also experimented with wood engraving for book illustrations, and he tended to his children's artistic talents, including his eldest daughter Lucy and his son Oliver and daugther Cathy by his mistress, Emma Hill (1829-1890), who he married in 1853. Oliver's death in 1874 left his father griefstricken.

In 1878 Ford Madox Brown finally received a public commission, and he spent the next several years living in Manchester in order to complete several frescoes for the great hall of the city's town hall. He returned to London to finish the wall paintings, completing the last just before his death in 1893.

[Information retrieved from Barringer, Tim, "Brown, Ford Madox," Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2005.]


.25 Linear Feet (1 document case)

Physical Location

MS 206

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift, William D. Paden estate, 1979.

Related Materials

Other collections at Spencer Research Library containing correspondence to and from Ford Madox Brown include the Rossetti family correspondence, MS 23, and Frederic Shields correspondence, MS 44.

Separated Materials

Two letters from Brown to Lucy Madox Brown Rossetti removed to the Rosetti family correspondence, MS 23, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas.

Processing Information

Formerly part of the 19th-century manusript correspondence temporarily grouped as the "Paden Acquisition." Additional information regarding where each letter in the collection was in the Paden acquisition is available by contacting Spencer Research Library staff.

Guide to the Ford Madox Brown Collection
Ford Madox Brown collection
Finding aid prepared by alh, 1988. Finding aid encoded by mwh, 2021.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Finding aid written in English.
Finding aid permalink
Preferred citation
Ford Madox Brown collection, MS 206, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas

Repository Details

Part of the University of Kansas. Kenneth Spencer Research Library Repository

1450 Poplar Lane
Lawrence KS 66045-7616 United States