12 stunning murals that show a remarkable Victorian vision of Manchester

An art history expert from the University of Manchester has written the first detailed account of the story behind the 12 extraordinary murals in Manchester City Hall, which he says reveal a remarkable Victorian vision of the city.

Ford Madox Brown spent 16 years creating the extraordinary works depicting the birth, development and success of Manchester at the Great Hall from 1878-93, but they were overlooked by the UK art world up until the 1980s and half-forgotten, partly for academic reasons, and popular writers tended to focus more on French art.

The senior lecturer in art history, Dr. Colin Trodd, however, says they are undoubtedly the most important public works of art of their time, and the paintings are now the subject of his new book Ford Madox Brown: The Murals of Manchester and the Matter of History.

In the book he examines the characteristics that define the murals – themes, dynamic movement and unusual combinations of seriousness and comedy. He also explains how Brown used historical and contemporary records to support his vision and examines Brown’s difficult relationships with local politicians and officials and examines why Brown’s account of Manchester’s development appeals to modern viewers.

During his research, Dr. Trodd that Brown was an outspoken critic of industrialists, factory owners, and most local politicians and officials, and that although he was not wealthy himself, he financially supported impoverished artists and the unemployed.

He also found that Brown had overcome personal tragedies while working on the project – his brilliant son died shortly before the commission was commissioned, his wife became addicted to alcohol while he was working on the murals, and he suffered a stroke in the process were almost complete.

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