[In this passage from Pre-Raphaelitism and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, Hunt provides examples of Brown's generous praise to two younger artists. The second, a letter from Brown to Hunt, also provides evidence that the older artist was coming around to Pre-Raphaelite methods. Typical of Hunt's writing, he does not specify which painting of Millais occasioned such high praise, but since he quotes Brown in the chapter on 1848-1849, it must be Lorenzo and Isabella—George P. Landow.]
Brown's praise of Millais's early work
Madox Brown . . . listened to the reports which any of us made of Millais' painting and its wonders with nothing but a very self-possessed smile, saying, " Yes, I daresay he has improved since he did 'The Widow's Mite.' He was very young then."
More exciting rumours of Millais' picture came towards the sending-in day, and then Brown went to Gower Street with the stream of visitors. On his way back he called at my studio when I alone was in. He seemed impatient to cancel every tinge in detraction of Millais' merit that he might ever have expressed before, intensifying the force of his latest testimony by an extra syllabic precision, saying, "I assure you, Hunt, I never was so astonished in my whole life. Millais is no longer merely a very satisfactory fulfiller of the sanguine expectations of his prejudiced friends, he is a master of the most exalted proficiency, no one since Titian has ever painted a picture with such exquisite passages of handling and colour, and these charms, with a rare naiveté of character of his own, make the work astonishingly enchanting." He went from point to point of the picture, dwelling much on the drawing of the foremost figures and on the design of the hounds, discriminating with exquisite pleasure on the colour of the majolica plates and fruit on the table, on the pure tints of the costumes; coming slowly to a climax, he at last well-nigh closed his eyes in rhapsody on the perfection of modelling and tone of the white napkin hanging over the servant's arm. [I, 170]
Brown's letter to Holman Hunt
17 NEWMAN STREET. MY DEAR HUNT—I could not pass this evening in peace if I did not write to tell you how noble I think sur picture. I went up to see it after some resistance on the partof your landlady. I can scarcely describe the emotions I felt on finding myself alone with your beautiful work (quite finished and you out, that was something of a triumph), but certainly your picture makes me feel shame that I have not done more in all the years I have worked. You will now have one long course of triumph, I believe—well you deserve it. Your picture seems to me without fault and beautiful to its minutest detail, and I do not think that there is a man in England that could do a finer work ; it is fine all over. I have been to see Millais. His pictures are wonders in colour and truth; in fine, admirable for all they intend, but I like yours better for my own use, although there are qualities in Millais which never have been attained, and perhaps never again will be. If Rossetti will only work, you will form a trio which will play a great part in English art, in spite of Egg's predictions. I mean to be much more careful in future, and try next time to satisfy myself. I wish I had seen you to-night, for I am full of your picture, and should like to shake you by the hand. I have had serious thoughts of joining [sic] P.R.B. on my pictures this year, but in the first place I am rather old to play the fool, or least what would be thought to be doing so; in the next place do not feel confident enough how the picture will look, and unless very much liked I would not do it, but the best reason against it is that we may be of more service to each other as we are than openly bound together. I wish you all the success you deserve.—
FORD M. BROWN [I, 246-47]
- “Curious crotchets:” Ford Hunt on Madox Brown's disappointments and character
- Brown's Early Christian school not Pre-Raphaelitism
- Hunt on Brown's earlier work
- Ford Madox Brown becomes a Pre-Raphaelite convert
Hunt, William Holman. Pre-Raphaelitism and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. 2 vols. New York: Macmillan, 1905.
Last modified 25 October 2012