Into the Frame: The Four Loves of Ford Madox Brown by Angela Thirlwell; Ford Madox Brown: A Catalogue Raisonné by Mary Bennett - review by Henrietta Garnett

Henrietta Garnett

Spinning and Sorting the Yarn

Into the Frame: The Four Loves of Ford Madox Brown

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Chatto & Windus 304pp £25 order from our bookshop

Ford Madox Brown: A Catalogue Raisonné

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Yale University Press Vol I xxpp Vol II 366pp £125 order from our bookshop
 

There are many ways of writing biography and Angela Thirlwell has chosen an interesting approach. Into the Frame tells the stories of four very different women whose only point in common was their predilection for the Victorian painter, Ford Madox Brown. Naturally, his feelings for them varied according to their lights. While there is scant evidence available about what any of these women felt for him, Thirlwell is so gifted at spinning a yarn that this lack of data does not deter her from delivering an absorbing account of her elusive subjects. Apart from Brown’s diary and his correspondence, she relies heavily on her own interpretation of his painting: ‘It is a crucial resource, a supplement and flavour of the inner conversations behind their human drama.’

Born in Calais in 1821, Brown was brought up in France and later studied art in Bruges and Antwerp. In 1841 he married his first love and cousin, the 22-year-old Elisabeth Bromley. Coming from the same background, they shared much in common and were intellectual equals. They lived

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