History Remarkable Women

Lucy Madox Brown (Remarkable Women #23)

Portrait by Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1874)

Early Life

Lucy Madox Brown was born in Paris on July 19,1843, and was the daughter of Ford Madox Brown (learn more about him here) by his first wife Elizabeth Bromley (1819–1846). Her mother died just three years later in 1846, and she was sent to live with her aunt Helen Bromley in Gravesend, Kent.

In 1856 she went to live with the Rossetti household in London and was tutored by her future sister-in-law, Maria Francesca Rossetti.

Her half-sister Catherine Madox Brown described her as ”a strange mixture with a violent temper and a strong brain”.


In the summer of 1873 she became engaged to William Michael Rossetti and they married on 31 March 1874. William was the son of Gabriele Rossetti and his wife Frances Polidori and brother to Maria, Dante Gabriel and Christina Rossetti.

Lucy and William honeymooned in France and Naples, Italy, in April 1874. They attempted to live with William’s family but, due to religious differences with Frances and Christina, who were devout Anglo-Catholics, moved out to their own accommodation in Bloomsbury by the end of 1876.

Their first child, Olivia Frances Madox, was born in September 1875, and their son, Gabriel Arthur, was born in February 1877, followed by Helen Maria, in November 1879, and twins Mary Elizabeth and Michael Ford (who died in infancy), in April 1881.


Lucy began painting in 1868 and along with her half sister Catherine modelled and worked as an assistant under their father. Other female Pre-Raphaelite artists such as Georgiana Burne-JonesThomas Seddon‘s sister and Marie Spartali Stillman also took lessons in the same studio.

The Duet by Lucy Madox Brown (1870)

Working mainly in watercolours, Lucy exhibited in Dudley Museum and Art Gallery from 1869 to 1872. Her painting, The Duet, which was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1870, was described by Dante Gabriel Rossetti as a “perfect picture”. However in 1874 she stopped painting.

Aside from painting Lucy also wrote the biography of Mary Shelley, titled Mrs. Shelley, for John Ingram’s Eminent Women series and it was published in 1890.

The Magic Mirror (1872)


From 1885 she suffered from consumption and went to Italy for her health during the winter. The illness worsened Lucy’s temper and brought the permanent rift between her and William.

William was deeply affected by Lucy’s alienation: “This change in my relations of affection and home-life is about the most painful thing that could have occurred to me.”

 She died on 12 April 1894 at the Hotel Victoria in Sanremo, Italy, in the presence of her husband and her daughter Olivia, and was buried in La Foce Cemetery. 

Lucy’s will left everything to her children, possibly to protect them in the event William remarried in the future.

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