FORD MADOX BROWN (1821-1893) Biography
PRE-RAPHAELITE (founded 1848) Biography

May Memories (England, 1869 - 1884)

Oil on canvas
Signed with monogram and dated 69-84


42.50cm high
29.50cm wide
(16.73 inches high)
(11.61 inches wide)
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The Artist
The artist's executor's sale, 29-31 May 1894, lot 129, lot 129; sold to:
Mrs Catherine Hueffer, the artist's daughter; thence by descent to:
Oliver Madox Hueffer;
Rt. Hon. Sir Frank Soskice MP
Lord Stowe Hill; by descent to:
Lady Stowe Hill
Christies London, October 24 1980, lot 50
Christies London, June 24 1988, lot 96; sold to:
Wolfgang Fischer; to 1997


Ford Madox Brown, Account Book, subjects of Pictures and Drawings (Cornell University, Violet Hunt papers, collection 4607)
Ford Madox Brown, mss letters to Lucy Madox Brown, February 2 & June 16 1884, January 21 & February 4 1885 (University of British Columbia Library, Angeli-Dennis collection)
William Michael Rossetti, Diary, June 27 1884 (University of British Columbia Library, Angeli-Dennis collection)
Ford M. Hueffer, Ford Madox Brown - A Record of his Life and Work, Longmans Green & Co, London 1896, pages 255 and 366
Tessa Newman & Ray Watkinson, Ford Madox Brown and the Pre-Raphaelite Circle, 1991, page 183
Kenneth Bendiner, The Art of Ford Madox Brown, 1998, illustrated colour plate VIII and figure 58
Peter Nahum, The Brotherhood of Ruralists and the Pre-Raphaelites, 2005, The Leicester Galleries Exhibition Catalogue, illustrated, number 5
Mary Bennett, Ford Madox Brown, A Catalogue Raisonné, volume I, pages 347-8, catalogue number A121, illustrated page 348

Exhibition History

Manchester, Manchester Academy, Spring, 1885, number 5
Liverpool, Walker Art Gallery, Autumn Exhibition, 1891, number 908
London, Grafton Galleries, Works of Ford Madox Brown, 1897, number 39
Liverpool, Walker Art Gallery, Ford Madox Brown 1821-1893, 1964, number 43
Chichester, Pallant House Gallery, Innocence and Decadence: Flowers in Northern European Art 1880-1914, 1999
London, Peter Nahum at The Leicester Galleries, The Brotherhood of Ruralists and the Pre-Raphaelites, June - July 2005, number 5
Woking, The Lightbox, , Visionary Victorians: British & European Painting 1850 – 1900, May - July 2009

Description / Expertise

Ford Madox Brown began this painting of his second wife, Emma, at his house in Fitzroy Square, London in 1869, retouching and finally working it up for sale in Manchester in May 1884. His first wife had died in Rome in 1846. He married again in 1853. Emma Hill had been his model and lover since 1848.

The year 1870 began as one of some depression does, and held on its course rather languidly. No pictures new in subject were commenced, but designs for pictures, subsequently executed, had their origin in the already referred to illustrations of Moxon's ‘Byron’. The early part of the year was occupied by the painting of a ‘fancy portrait’ of Mrs Madox Brown, entitled May Memories, of a lady of sumptuous charms sitting amongst a wealth of may-blossoms, meditating on the glories of her may-days in the ‘temps jadis’. This picture was, however, not finished until long subsequently.(1)
… During the early part of the year following [1884] the exigencies of his pocket and the prospect of possible sales caused Madox Brown to recur to his old device of retouching and finishing up old pictures, a kind of work that the months of April and May were devoted. The works treated in this way were the pictures of the Traveller, an oil replica of that work of sixteen years' standing, and the portrait of Mrs Madox Brown, called May Memories. (2)

Madox Brown was never a member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (being deemed too old at twenty-eight in 1848), but he was a close associate through his lifelong friendship with Rossetti. He influenced the Brotherhood’s admiration for early Italian art, encouraged them to paint in pure glazes and was, in turn, influenced by their fidelity to nature. In March 1848, Rossetti applied to him for painting lessons leading to Brown’s association with Pre-Raphaelitism. Brown gained little public recognition in this period, apart from prizes at the Liverpool Academy in 1856 and 1858, partly because he ceased to exhibit at the Royal Academy in 1853. Yet in 1865 his works of the 1850’s became better known because he held a one-man exhibition in Piccadilly featuring his most famous painting, Work, along with most of his other major paintings.

He exhibited recent paintings at the Dudley Gallery in the 1860s, an instance of the importance of this exhibition to independent and avant-garde artists in its early years. Because of his attention to detail and strict adherence to the principals of the Brotherhood, his works were painted painstakingly and are now extremely rare on the market

(1) Ford M. Hueffer, Madox Brown, 1896, page 255

(2) Ibid, page 366