First Watson Gordon chair of fine art at Edinburgh University (first chair of fine arts in the British Isles) 1880-1930; early monuments preservationist. Brown's father was a minister, James Baldwin Brown (1820-1884) and his mother, Elizabeth Leifchild (Brown). His uncle was the sculptor Henry Leifchild (1823-1884). After attending Uppingham School, he earned a scholarship to Oriel College, Oxford, in 1869. He graduated with a degrees in classics in 1871 and literae humaniores (humanities) in 1873. Brown was appointed to a fellowship (teaching position) at Brasenose College, Oxford, the following year, where he met Walter Pater, also lecturing at Brasenose. However, in 1877 he left academia to study (studio) painting at the National Art Training School in South Kensington (today the Royal College of Art). In 1880 Brown was named the first chair in fine arts in the British lands, the Watson Gordon chair of fine art at Edinburgh University. He rented an apartment near the British Museum, marrying Maude Annie Terrell (d. 1931), a fellow artist, in 1882. Brown lectured mostly on Greek art in Edinburgh, at the time, the only art era considered worthy enough for academic study for undergraduates. However, his personal interests were in medieval ecclesiastical art. He published From schola to cathedral: a study of early Christian architecture and its relation to the life of the church in 1886. His article "The origin of Roman imperial architecture" was initially read as a paper at the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1889. Beginning in 1903, Brown published what would be his most important contribution to art history, his six-volume Arts in Early England. His The Fine Arts appeared in 1891 and went through numerous editions. Brown's 1905 book The Care of Ancient Monuments was responsible for a royal commission to inventory ancient Scottish monuments in 1908, which Brown participated in. His book William Hogarth was published in 1905 and a similar treatment of Rembrandt was issued by Brown in 1907. In between continuing his volumes of Arts in Early England, he also wrote The Arts and Crafts of our Teutonic Forefathers (1910), and The Art of the Cave Dweller in 1928. Many of Brown's book were illustrated by his wife. Brown was elected a fellow of the British Academy in 1924. He died at his home in Edinburgh and was cremated. At the time of his death, he was working on the final volume Arts in Early England, which was completed by Eric Hyde (Lord Sexton), in 1937. Brown's art-historical method was connoisseurship combined with an artist's fascination of craftsmanship. His work was largely outdated at his death by more rigorous historical treatments. His raising of concern in preservation of ancient monuments is his greatest accomplishment to art history.
- Papers of Professor Gerard Baldwin Brown (1849-1932), Edinburgh University Library Special Collections. https://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/data/gb237-coll-314, GB 237 Coll-314.