The lengthy description of the painting in Ford Madox Ford's biography of Brown is quoted from someone identified as Mr Forbes Robertson , senior, but is described as having been conveyed by Brown himself:
On a white horse, which grazes leisurely by the roadside before us, sits a stalwart man of saturnine visage, in the prime of lusty manhood.
He is attired in the sober costume worn by thoughtful men in the early part of Charles I's reign, is booted in buff, and his beaver is slouched. His coat is dark brown, and his cloak is sage green in colour. On his brow there is a palpable wart, and on the scant white bands which adorn his neck is a red spot as of blood. Before him burns a heap of weeds and stubble, which those two labourers have grubbed from the hedges they have been trimming, and it is the flames thereof that have arrested the attention of their master, and on which he now gazes so earnestly yet so absently.
In vain may the buxom wench, sent by her mistress, who stands with her two children by the garden terrace in front of the goodly manor-house yonder to the right, raise her voice above the lowing of cattle, the grunting of pigs, and the quacking duck which she holds in her lusty grasp, to tell the master that dinner waits.
He hears, and heeds her no more than the little lamb does that nibbles contentedly the herbage by the horse's nose, or than the pig that fancies something good is going on in her neighbourhood, and comes scampering up, with her squeaking litter, among the very horse's feet.
By the consenting fall of the lines of the mouth and the weird speculation in those eyes, he of the white horse sits evidently spell-bound; and that which fixes him is no fairy dance, no pleasing phantasy, but the soul-sobering vision of the prophet or seer.
We have seen where we are in time: but where are we in place, and who is he?
The level landscape, then, which lies so sunny before us, with its dog-roses, chamomile, and marsh-mallow, with its pollard willows throwing their stumpy shadows on the luxuriant pasturage, with its flat, Dutch-like horizon, is the Fen country of Old England.
We are in Huntingdonshire, and yonder in the distance rises the famous tower of its capital. That is the Black Ouse beyond the meadows, which, with winding equivocation, loiters lazily towards the Wash.
Ford Madox Brown, born April 16, 1821, Calais, France, died October 6, 1893, London, England
English painter whose work is associated with that of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, although he was never a member.
Brown studied art from 1837 to 1839 inBruges and Antwerp, Belgium. His early work is characterized by sombre colour and dramatic feeling suited to the Byronic subjects that he painted in Paris during 1840–43, such as Manfred on the Jungfrau (c. 1840) and Parisina's Sleep (1842). Already concerned with the accuratere presentation of natural phenomena, he drew from corpses in University College Hospital in London when painting his Prisoner of Chillon (1843). During a visit to Italy in 1845, he met Peter von Cornelius, a member of the former Lukasbund, or Nazarenes. This meeting undoubtedly influenced both Brown's palette and his style. His interest in brilliant, clear colour and neomedievalism first appears in Wyclif Reading His Translation of the Scriptures to John of Gaunt (1847). In 1848 Brown briefly accepted Dante Gabriel Rossetti as a pupil, and in 1850 Brown contributed to the Pre-Raphaelites' magazine, Germ. Like William Holman Hunt, Brown painted in the open air to obtain naturalistic accuracy.
His most famous picture, Work (1852–63), which can be seen as a Victorian social document, was first exhibited at a retrospective exhibition held in London (1865), for which he wrote the catalog. He also worked as a book illustrator with William Morris; produced stained glass, at, among other sites, St. Oswald's, Durham (1864–65); and between 1879 and 1893 completed a series of 12 murals for the Manchestertown hall, depicting scenes from the city's history.