Madox Brown, who grew up in France and Belgium before he came to England and won fame with paintings like 'The Last of England', was always an outsider, and the women he loved also burst out of stereotypes. His two wives, Elisabeth Bromley and Emma Hill, and his secret passions, the artist Marie Spartali and the author Mathilde Blind, were all remarkable personalities, from very different backgrounds.
Their striving for self-expression, in an age that sought to suppress them, tells us much more about women's journey towards modern roles. Their lives - full of passion, sexual longing, tragedy and determination - take us from the English countryside and the artist's studio to a Europe in turmoil and revolution. These are not silent muses hidden in the shadow of a 'Master'. They step out of the shadows and into the picture, speaking with voices we can hear and understand.
[A] beautifully written, emotionally intelligent and finely detailed account... What impresses is how richly informative is this history of individual lives, about the period as a whole, its culture, and material existence
Thirlwell has written a moving and absorbing book about Victorian marriage, ambition and unrequited love
A humane and intelligent book... an up-close, colourfully detailed study of the interweaving lives and passions of a small group of sophisticated Victorians
Angela Thirlwell is entirely confortable in the world inhabited by the Pre-Raphaelites, and her earlier study of William Rossetti deserved the plaudits heaped on it. Now she has turned to Ford Madox Brown and once again has proved to be an able scholar who turns meticulous research into a seamless narrative.... An excellent account, lovingly narrated and wise in its judgements
Compulsively readable... Engrossing