Composing meanings: Space and invention in Ford Madox Brown’s paintings, 1843-59

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This article examines some of the compositional structures invented by Brown across a series of works from 1845 to 1865. It considers the ideas advanced in Brown’s important essay ‘On the Mechanism of a Historical Picture’ (1850). The article identifies motifs from sources as diverse as early Renaissance frescoes and contemporary Salon pictures, which provided templates for Brown’s ‘inventions’ (to use Ruskin’s preferred term for pictorial composition). The article argues that Brown’s ‘inventions’ can be seen as the products of a syncretic approach to conflicting concepts of pictorial space, including pre-perspectivalism, academicism and the realism of modern-day subject painting
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)334-348
Number of pages15
JournalVisual Culture in Britain
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 29 Sept 2014


  • composition
  • design
  • Pre-Raphaelitism
  • history painting
  • fesco
  • inventions
  • narrative
  • satire
  • subjects


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