Study of Emma and Catherine for 'Pretty Baa Lambs', Ford Madox Brown, 1851
Black and sepia chalk, 21.3 x 17.2cm
Accession Number WAG10506
This pencil study was part of the elaborate preparation that Ford Madox Brown made for ‘Pretty Baa Lambs’ (Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery) his first painting of figures in landscape illuminated by strong sunlight. Emma and her newborn child were possibly posed out of doors; the attention paid to the intensity of the blacks in the shade of Emma’s bonnet suggests that they were.
Each day over a five month period Madox Brown also posed a lay figure dressed in Emma’s clothes on the lawn of his Stockwell garden. This may account for the rather summary treatment in this drawing of the torso and clothes.
His finished picture was one of the most thoroughgoing excercises in the Pre-Raphaelite doctrine of ‘truth to nature’. A sense of its shocking novelty is evident even in a comment made over forty years after it was painted by the critic RAM Stevenson. In 1896 he said to the artist’s son-in-law Ford Madox Hueffer:
‘By God! the whole history of modern art begins with that picture. Corot, Manet, the Marises, all the Fontainbleau school, all the Impressionists never did anything but imitate that picture’.
Although this comparison by Stevenson is not strictly accurate it does suggest that affinities between Barbizon, Impressionism and Pre-Raphaelitism are closer than might at first appear.