Brown was born on April 16, 1821 in the French city of Calais. In 1835 he entered the Academy of Arts in Bruges; He then studied in Ghent and Antwerp, where in 1841 he wrote his first significant painting: "The Giaour’s Confession". In 1845, he visited Rome, where he became close to the Nazarenes, German artists, who at that time settled in Rome. Brown learned a lot from the Nazarenes, and these views later influenced the Pre-Raphaelites.
Inspired by the ideas of the movement "Arts and Crafts", became an associate of W. Morris. Throughout Brown’s creativity worried about the problems of monumental painting. In 1878−1893 painted the town hall of Manchester on the theme of the history of the city. Other works: Manfred on Jungfrau (1841, Manchester, City Art Gallery), Harvesting (1854, London, Tate Gallery).