in Ford Madox Brown
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The introduction responds to the standard view that the Manchester murals are examples of liberalism by outlining Brown’s attitude to the material conditions of the Victorian art world. It goes on to argue that Brown saw the replication of artworks as a way of exercising some control over the production, distribution and consumption of his productions. To think in these terms was to define independence by recourse to the idea of the master craftsman, the figure who set out to orchestrate the development and supply of artefacts. This sentiment – where the artist must struggle to assert authority over the things he or she wants to produce, to ascribe value for them – was an important aspect of Brown’s artistic character, since it encouraged him to believe that he could contest cultural liberalism by demonstrating the rights of expressive labour over the power of capital.

Ford Madox Brown

The Manchester murals and the matter of history


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