Oliver Madox Brown as a baby

WAG 10508


This is one of five studies drawn between 1847 and 1857 depicting Brown’s four children. They are part of a substantial group of drawings of his children made for personal record and also as studies for future paintings. Brown’s first son, Oliver, was born in 1855 and the drawing shows him aged three days old. The artist adopts a softer stippled modelling of the child’s face - a much tighter drawing than the earlier fluid pastel of Catherine. The inscription along the top edge and the contrasting uniform dark background give a strength to the drawing that is more akin to a black and white print. Brown wrote in his diary for 20 January 1855: "This morning at half past 12am Dearest Emma was delivered of a son, my first. He is very red, a large nose, eyes, and shape of face like a calmuck tartar." A few days later he wrote that he "drew at the boy without his cap and they said I had given him a cold." In accordance with Pre-Raphaelite truth to nature, Brown recorded the baby’s appearance with loving exactitude, making no attempt to beautify him. Oliver himself took up both painting and writing. He worked in his father's studio and exhibited his own work from 1869. He published his first romance, 'Gabriel Denver', in 1873. He died in 1874 at just 20 years of age from blood poisoning. Brown made various studies of him as a child, the most famous being 'The English Boy' in 1860.