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William Marshall Brown, 'Fishergirls'

William Marshall Brown RSA (1863–1936)

William Marshall Brown was not a native of East Lothian, but like many artists he was captivated by the coast and landscape of the county and the inhabitants of these districts. He spent many years working in the county and many of the figures he painted – fisher girls and farmworkers feature strongly – were characteristic of his times. Even when a scene is not named, the East Lothian connection can often be discerned in the details – for example, ‘ugli’ bonnets, creels and baskets.

Born in Edinburgh, Marshall Brown studied at the city’s Royal Institute and the RSA’s Life School. He also spent time in London and painted in the Netherlands and France but became recognised for his figurative work in Scottish landscape settings. Although he ranged widely across Scotland he, like the ‘Glasgow Boys’, found Cockburnspath a useful base and kept a studio there from which he executed some of his best work. Many of his works are large, exhibiting broad and rapid brushwork and a bright palette. A favourite composition might be executed several times with slight variations.

He was elected ARSA in 1909 and RSA in 1928.

The collections hold a number of works by Marshall Brown, which provide an interesting contrast to the works of William Darling McKay; they are profiled above.

You can view all the paintings East Lothian Council owns by William Marshall Brown, and others, on the YourPaintings website.

Further Reading: Martin A Forrest, Artists in East Lothian 1850 to 1920, Proceedings of Haddington’s History Society 1994-5.

10 thoughts on “William Marshall Brown RSA (1863–1936)”

  1. Chris Holmes says:

    To the group:

    I have question about William Marshall signature. I found a large oil painting of women on beach. 4 women and one child. The women caring baskets. Reminds me the other painting by Brown of women collection Mussels. The Signature is only w. Brown. Did Marshall Brown ever sign his works W. Brown. Thank you. Chris Holmes

  2. David says:

    Hello Mary

    If you look above to the reply to Joyce, you’ll see that Museums in the UK do not provide financial valuations of objects – most curators do not keep up with current market trends as opposed to the cultural or historical significance of an object. They might, if they have appropriate expertise, offer an opinion about an artefact or work of art – but not where this might be cited in support of a valuation.

    So, to get round to your query, all we can suggest that to determine the commercial (or insurance) value of an object the owner must look for a reputable dealer or auction house. We can’t nominate a particular business but you should be able to find a suitable candidate near you.

  3. Mary Soutter says:

    An elderly relative has just gone into a nursing home. She has a number of paintings …one of which is the Poato Pickers by Marshall Brown.
    How best should we go about attaining a valuation?

  4. simon lamb says:

    Hello Joyce,
    It’s a long time since this thread was last running, but in case you pick this up and did not find a satisfactory answer I can say with confidence that if yours is an oil painting and unless you have a minor landscape sketch or it is in very poor condition you have been misled! His good works are still in demand and have not depreciated appreciably. If you would like more advice do feel free to contact me.

    1. Joyce Paxton says:

      Hi Simon, I’m so sorry but I have only just read your reply to my query of William Marshall Brown oil paintings.
      Indeed my paintings are of good standing and I would very much like your advice.
      Many thanks for your interest.
      Joyce Paxton.

  5. David says:

    Hello Joyce

    I’m afraid that we can’t enter into the area of valuations. Our standard reply is: ‘Museum professionals cannot undertake valuations of any object or work of art as such activity conflicts with our duty of curation and collecting. Valuations are made by professional auctioneers and experts within the field of the object. Consequently also we cannot comment on appreciation or depreciation in the value of such works and enquiries should be made of auction houses and art galleries who might have the relevant expertise’.
    It would, however, be interesting to hear more about the artist’s time at Co’path. I’m sure you’ll be aware of our own examples; they can be viewed on the BBC Your Paintings website, along with others in public collections:

    1. Joyce Paxton says:

      My sincere apologies for not getting back to you David.
      In reply to your request for any information of William Marshall Browns connections at Co’Path…My husband was born at Old Linhead, Cockburnspath. His Aunt, Jessie (neeGray)Barr (now deceased) lived at Bay View, The Cove, Cockburnspath, which had been the family home. Jessie’s father was a Fisherman from Cove Harbour.
      May Marshall Brown was a friend of Auntie Jessie (who was a retired Matron from a small hospital in East Fortune) enjoyed visits to Cove and stayed at Bay View Cottage as a guest of Auntie Jessie.
      I think May had a brother, Sam who visited Bay View, Cove as well.

      1. Fiona says:

        Hi Joyce,
        I wonder if you have a painting by William Marshal Brown with a young boy & 2 young girls at the Cove? Sorry can’t be more specific but it was of my father and his sisters whose parents Jim & Nettie Hardy stayed at the Cove for some time. The family have been looking for this painting for some time. Look forward to hearing from you.
        Best wishes Fiona

  6. james brennan says:

    i am extremely interested in William Marshall Brown the painter some years back i bought a large painting of his from donaldsons school for the deaf prior to ther departure from edinburgh to linithgow it was portrait of one of the teachers at the school(mr. larger). we had it restored and now it hangs in my dining room.

    i am now trying to locate other paining of this size although i am familiar with his pasturial painting for me his portraits are my favorite any addtional information on this work would be apprciated

    1. Joyce Paxton says:

      I have several oil and watercolour paintings by William Marshall Brown and his wife May. They were friends of my husband’s family and stayed with them on many occasions at Cockburnspath, Berwickshire. I recently had one of the oil paintings estimated and was disappointed to find that it was valued at £150 when, in 1995 it had been estimated at £1500!
      Can anyone enlighten me as to the depreciation of these artworks?

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