Study of Emma and Baby Catherine for 'Pretty Baa Lambs'

WAG 10506


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. It dates from the summer of 1851 when he had taken a house for himself, his wife Emma, and their daughter Catherine at Stockwell, South London. Emma was frequently his model during this time. Emma and her newborn child were possibly posed out of doors; this is suggested by the attention paid to the intensity of the blacks in the shade of Emma’s bonnet. Each day over a five-month period 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 complete exercises in the Pre-Raphaelite doctrine of ‘truth to nature’. A sense of its shocking novelty is evident in a comment made by the critic Robert Alan Mowbray Stevenson (1847 – 1900) more than 40 years after it was painted. In 1896, Stevenson 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.