Carrying Corn. Ford Madox Brown (1821-1893). 1854-5. Oil on mahogany, 19.7 cm x 27.6 cm. Tate Gallery, accession no. N04735 (purchased 1934). Source: Art UK, available for re-use under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives licence. Commentary and formatting by Jacqueline Banerjee. [Click on the image for a larger picture.]
Harold Rathbone, whom Ford Madox Ford describes as Brown's "solitary pupil of a later date" (427) is quoted as saying,
His advice to me as a pupil was precisely that contained in his early article in the "Germ." Care in selection of a suitable subject, and a treatment of that subject which would conclusively manifest itself to the ordinary observer without further explanation. To be in this respect ever direct and typical in representation, rather than err on the side of subtlety and obscurity by dwelling unduly upon unimportant accident. To impart some definite scheme of lighting or effect to the work, and, in the case of a landscape especially, always to be on the look-out for some unusual and suggestive effect rather than the everyday aspect. [qtd. in Ford 429]
Here, what struck Brown when seeing a field at Hendon (he and his wife Alice were staying in Finchley at the time, and taking excursions into the surrounding countryside) was the perspective of turnip field and hayricks, farmhouse, sky and sun. He also mentioned a steeple, but that does not appear here (see Treuherz 168). It was a difficult subject, changing on every visit both because of the light and weather, and the farming activities, and he ended up going there again and again to try to get it right. In the finished painting, the colour contrasts and the falling shadows of late afternoon are beautiful, and subtly enlivened by the small flock of birds in the sky, and the tiny figures of the haymakers. There is also a woman, half-hidden in the shaded foreground, bending to pick or gather the turnips.
Julian Treuherz tells us that the finished painting was submitted to the Royal Academy's Summer Exhibition of 1855, but not selected, and later sold to a dealer for £12. No wonder the artist grumbled that "these little landscapes take up too much time to be proffitable [sic]" (qtd. in Treuherz 168). But they would find their true value in the end.
Ford, Ford Madox. Ford Madox Brown: A Record of His Life and Work. London: Longmans, 1896. Internet Archive. Web. 21 July 2017.
Treuherz, Julian, with contributions by Kenneth Bendiner and Angela Thirlwell. Ford Madox Brown: Pre-Raphaelite Pioneer. London: Philip Wilson, 2011.
Created 21 July 2017