Ford Madox Brown’s closely observed, highly detailed watercolor of the view from his lodgings in Hampstead High Street in northwest London embraces John Ruskin’s advice to the young painters of England to, “go to nature in all singleness of heart… rejecting nothing, selecting nothing and scorning nothing; believing all things to be right and good, and rejoicing always in the truth.” (
vol. 1, 1843). But Brown’s view is more than the quintessential example of Ruskin’s maxim. It also reflects a growing concern with the encroachment of London on the large swath of open space known as Hampstead Heath, which was at the time of Brown’s painting, in danger of development as Victorian London expanded outwards. Brown’s depiction may reflect this concern.
In Victorian times, just as today, there was
an understanding of the need
for the preservation of the landscape.
Margaretta S. Frederick
Annette Woolard-Provine Curator of the Bancroft Collection