Francis Focer Brown

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Francis Focer Brown (1891–1971) was a well-known American Impressionist painter, as well as professor and head of the Fine Arts Department at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana from 1925–1957, and Director of the Muncie Art Museum. His work was exhibited frequently at the Hoosier Salon- Indiana Artists Annual, Herron School of Art Museum, Ball State University, Indiana State Fair, Indiana Art Club and others. Brown studied With J. Ottis Adams and William Forsyth (artist) at the Herron School of Art; Ball State Teachers College, B.S.; Ohio State University, M.A. Member Indiana AC; Hoosier Salon. He exhibited at the Richmond Art Museum, 1922 (prize); John Herron Art Institute, 1922 (prize); Hoosier Salon, 1922–45 (awards); CMA, 1922–25; PAFA, 1922, 1923. His work is held in collections at John Herron Art Institute; Ball State University; Richmond Art Museum, and in various schools and libraries throughout Indiana. Also known as Francis Brown and Francis F. Brown.


Francis Focer Brown was a child prodigy drawn at an early age to the field of art. Born in Glassboro, New Jersey, Brown later relocated to Muncie, Indiana, where he attended school as a teenager. During summer vacations while attending Muncie Southside High School, Brown received instruction from J. Ottis Adams in Brookville, Indiana. The course that J. Ottis Adams offered lasted only seven weeks, so Brown rented a room at The Hermitage to be near Adams, whom he described in later years as "a wonderfully kind and inspiring teacher" (Eldredge, 1964). Following his instruction with Adams, Brown later enrolled at the John Herron Art Institute where he studied directly under William Forsyth (artist), a teacher known for his stern manner. Brown later shared a studio with his wife, Beulah H. Brown, whom he met while a student at the Herron Art Institute. Because Beulah was allergic to oil paints, the majority of Brown's work was created in Tempera, Acrylic, Watercolor, Pastel, Charcoal and Pencil, with only a very small percentage conducted in Encaustics or Oils.

Brown's subsequent progress and recognition a premier Indiana painter later allowed him to paint and teach at Winegate, Mitchell, and Richmond – all towns in Indiana. This experience prepared him for a post in the Art Department at Ball State University, a post which he would maintain from 1925 to 1957, and from 1957 as Professor Emeritus. Brown was also a well-known exhibitor of the Hoosier Salon, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, the Indiana Art Club, The Western Art Association, and other local and national art organizations, including the Richmond Group, a well-known collective of Indiana artists working in the area of Richmond, Indiana.

Brown achieved an enviable local reputation, exhibiting regularly at national shows, including those at the Hoosier Salon (1925–64), where he won a number of awards, as well as the Cleveland Museum of Art and many others. Notably, Brown's portrait was painted by Wayman Elbridge Adams, who also studied at the Herron School of Art. Adams, in turn, was well known by historians for portraits of prominent persons including important artists, political leaders and authors, such as Booth Tarkington.


During his formative years as an educator, Brown developed a personal style that bordered on impressionism; he utilized a system of juxtaposed strokes of contrasting color, that later lead him to better understand and assimilate his own formula of impressionism. Notably, unlike many other impressionists of the era, Brown began to expand the boundaries of impressionism far beyond many of his contemporaries with departures that encompassed both the Fauve and Expressionist movements. In these artistic expressions, Brown experimented with bold color palates and often nearly formless subject matter which was often intertwined with atmospherics and light in a manner very similar, in substance, to those of Charles Burchfield in watercolors, and the Vincent van Gogh signature style, especially when working in egg Tempera or Oils.

Throughout his lifetime, Brown maintained a consistent pattern of experimentation, clearly intending to move beyond the boundaries of impressionism. To that end, Brown’s subject matter often focused upon the Hoosier countryside in a manner that approached the effects of atmosphere and light in a most profound manner. Of note, works undertaken later in Brown's lifetime were much more broadly brush stroked, often focusing on life pictures that reveal a spontaneity similar to his early landscapes.

Among his peers, Brown's interpretation of atmospherics was regarded as vastly superior to many of his older colleagues, who largely sacrificed their conservative palettes in order to exploit a more decorative artificiality. The effects of atmospherics and light often appear to be amplified by Brown's use of brightly pigmented Tempera, which created a depth and texture similar to that found in many of the great post-impressionist painters. Brown's subject matter was equally far reaching, including portraits, still life, marine art, landscape art, architectural art and industrial scenes.

Notwithstanding the breadth of subject matter encompassed by Brown's work, there is another side of Brown's life work, as revealed in several exceptionally spontaneous works which truly captured the essence of Midwestern atmosphere, and more importantly, the feeling of a simple place and time. Indeed, Brown's rather direct brushwork and rapid manipulation of bright pigments were incredibly successful in simplifying both elements and forms for the viewer.

After his death at the age of eighty, The Muncie Star Newspaper described the Francis Focer Brown's work as art which "didn’t attempt to cure the World’s ills or point out a message." Indeed, Brown’s imagery and style greatly expanded the scope of basic Midwestern impressionism far beyond those of his contemporaries.

Francis Focer Brown's works are currently exhibited at the following museums:

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