Monday, October 26, 2009

Ford Madox Brown - Study - The Seeds and Fruits of English Poetry

Oil on canvas
13.5 x 18 1/4"


Seeds and Fruits was planned in London and composed in Rome in 1845. 'During my sojourn'. Brown recalled, 'Italian art had made a deep and, as it proved, lasting impression on me, for I never afterwards returned to the sombre, Rembrandtesque style I had formerly worked in'. The influence of the Italian artists before Raphael is obvious in the triptych-like format, in the gothic arches, in the six poets arranged like saints on a gold ground in the wings of a medieval altar piece and in the bright colour. However, in 1851, when Brown finished the large picture, for which this is a study, he omitted all the gothic detail and, later, justified the bright colour as a novel attempt to introduce effects of bright sunlight into painting. Brown, by the early 50s had succumbed to the Pre-Raphaelite ideal of 'truth to nature' but not before he had given his disciple, Rossetti, a lasting taste for the art of the 'Early Christians'.

The centre panel shows Chaucer reading at the court of Edward III with his patron, the Black Prince, on his left. In the wings appear the 'fruits' of English poetry: Milton, Spenser and Shakespeare on the left; Byron, Pope and Burns on the right: Goldsmith and Thomson in the roundels; and the names of Campbell, Moore, Shelley Keats, Chatterton, Kirke White, Coleridge and Wordsworth are written on the cartouches held by the standing children in the base.

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