Ford Madox Brown: The Last of England, 1855 (detail)
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courtesy of Birmingham Museums Trust
Ford Madox Brown (1821-1893) was a British painter of moral and historical subjects, notable for his distinctively graphic and often Hogarthian version of the Pre-Raphaelite style. Though closely linked to them, he was never actually a member of the brotherhood itself, but adopted the bright colours and realistic style of William Holman Hunt and John Everett Millais. Brown spent the latter years of his life painting the twelve works known as The Manchester Murals, depicting Mancunian history, for Manchester Town Hall.
The Last of England is an oil-on-panel painting depicting two emigrants leaving England to start a new life in Australia with their baby. Brown began the painting in 1852 inspired by the departure of his close friend the Pre-Raphaelite sculptor Thomas Woolner, who had left for Australia in July of that year. Emigration from England was at a peak, with over 350,000 people leaving that year. Brown, who at the time considered himself "very hard up and a little mad", was himself thinking of moving to India with his new family.
The painting depicts a man and his wife seeing England for the last time. The two main figures, based on Brown and his wife, Emma, stare ahead, stony-faced, ignoring the white cliffs of Dover which can be seen disappearing behind them in the top right of the picture. They are huddled under an umbrella that glistens with sea-spray. The family's clothing and the bundle of books next to them indicate that they are middle class and educated, and so they are not leaving for the reasons that would force the emigration of the working classes.
the above text appears on the back of the card HC-1057: card size 7" x 5" (178mm x 127mm)