In 1844, whilst living in Paris, Brown created a set of drawings to illustrate Shakespeare's tragic play 'King Lear.' The majority of these drawings are now at the Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, but the Birmingham collection holds four related sheets of sketches. This sheet depicts act 1 scene 1 in which Lear questions Cordelia's love for him. Already the vitality and zeal of the series is apparent in Lear's intense glare and strong diagonal pose which cuts across the composition. Although the basic poses of the main characters remain the same, the position of the map, the extravagant design of the throne and the prominence of the intermediary figure, most likely representing Kent, are altered in the final version at the Whitworth. On the left is a pencil sketch for the third drawing in the series 'Cordelia Parting from her Sisters.' The finished drawing for this scene is also at the Whitworth and became the basis for Brown's first printed illustration published in the Germ in 1850 (1979P217.4 and 20007.1800). In the top left corner is another pencil sketch of a female figure restrained by two figures either side of her, faintly drawn. This does not appear to have been used in the drawings but may have been an early idea for a group of figures depicting Cordelia being led away from her father.On the reverse are sketches for Alfred the Great. He is shown drawing on the ground and surrounded by figures in front of a landscape background. Several of the figures have separate sketches around the edges of the paper where Brown has worked out individual poses. There is no recorded painting by Brown of Alfred the Great but these drawings show that Brown had already come up with a possible composition and was seriously considering it as a viable subject for a painting (see also 1978P513 and 1906P755).LM

  • Purchased and presented by subscribers, 1906.
  • © Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery


Association Artist Organisation
Artist Ford Madox Brown -


Type Position(s) Method Date(s) Notes
FMB / entered / enterred / simillar / similar / simmilar
Inscription reverse bottom left Handwritten - In artist's handwriting.. FMB in pencil; spelling variations in brown pen and ink.


Catalogue No. Venue Date(s)
Shakespeare in Pictures
4 Ulster Museum 1964 - 1964
Ford Madox Brown: The Unofficial Pre-Raphaelite
2 Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery 2008-08-27 - 2008-12-14


Author(s) Date(s) Publisher Pages
City of Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery: Catalogue of the Permanent Collection of Drawings
A E Whitley 1939 Bemrose & Sons Ltd, Derby p. 29
Ford Madox Brown: The Unofficial Pre-Raphaelite
Laura MacCulloch, Tessa Sidey 2008 D. Giles Limited, London pp. 49, 67; repr. p. 11
Ford Madox Brown: The Unofficial Pre-Raphaelite
2008 D. Giles Limited, London p. 9

Associated people

Name Type
William Shakespeare Author
Alfred the Great Associated with

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