Brotherhood of the Pre-Raphaelites (part 6)
The fate of this talented – and still underrated artist – has been difficult. He was a little older than the Pre-Raphaelites, but by the time he became friends with them, he already had fifteen years of professional experience and studied in Belgium, France and Italy.
Brown tended to create great dramatic compositions. “It was in Paris that I decided to paint realistic paintings, because not a single Frenchman painted like that,” he said later. Brown’s granddaughter, Elena Rossetti Angeli, wrote that “he was a communist by his habits … welcomed the Russian revolutionaries. In the early 1870s, his house was filled with communards. ” Many unemployed then left England, trying to get out of poverty. Brown went to see Wulner off to Australia, and was shocked to see crowds of emigrants. Yes, he himself was thinking whether to try his luck overseas, but limited himself only to a picture where he portrayed himself and his wife as a joyless couple, casting a farewell glance at their native land. This, perhaps, the meanest and most expressive canvas of Brown turned out to be the most topical.
But Brown considered the creation of a picturesque anthem to human labor as the main task. In European art of the middle of the last century, his work can only be compared with the work of Courbet. “Labor” is a kind of optimistic rhapsody, to which the master himself gave a detailed comment. In the center of the composition a group of laborers is depicted, next to which rich loafers become insignificant. The picture presents all types of labor: mental – two figures on the right – the founders of the first working college, where Brown, Rossetti and other Pre-Raphaelites taught. A group of diggers personifies physical labor, and so on up to the unemployed poor. “Labor” is a truly realistic painting that faithfully reproduces nature.
We focused only on the most significant works of the Pre-Raphaelites, but in the end, many artists of the second half of the 19th century began to work in the same direction, or, as one critic said, “suffered from Pre-Raphaelism as an inevitable childhood measles disease.”
Nevertheless, this “childhood illness”, which arose as a youthful rebellion against routine and vulgarity, has given rise to many works that still excite us not only with the mysterious inscription “PRB”, but also with the secret of genuine art.