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Awakening Consciousness: Ford Madox Brown’s Work and Friedrich Engels’ Condition of the Working Class in England by Chris Easton

Ford Madox Brown was born in France, Friedrich Engels in Germany. Apart from their European naissance, they had in common a recognition of, and a sense of injustice about, the suffering of the British labouring classes. For Brown his painting Work had a special importance. He painted two versions of it between 1852 and 1865, and in his 1865 exhibition in Manchester, Work was the central piece. The extensive catalogue for this self-organised retrospective is a primary source of insight into Brown’s symbolism in the painting. This essay relates Brown’s painting to the empirical social realities for the working classes as recorded by Friedrich Engels in his 1844 book, The Condition of the Working Class in England. For our purposes ‘working classes’, as Engels describes them, are those who have nothing to sell but their labour, that is those otherwise known as ‘the proletariat’, but this essay also extends the term to the common usage incorporating all labouring classes.

Date created: 
Wednesday, April 12, 2023
Attribution for this resource:
Awakening Consciousness: Ford Madox Brown’s Work and Friedrich Engels’ Condition of the Working Class in England by Chris Easton, All rights reserved.