On this day in history : 26th June 1817 – The birth in West Yorkshire of painter and poet Branwell Brontë – only son of the Brontë family and brother to writers Charlotte, Emily and Anne….

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Bronte Birthplace Plaque – Tim Green via Flickr

Born in Thornton, near to Bradford, Patrick Branwell Brontë – known as Branwell – was the fourth of six children…. He was just 4-years-old when his mother died in 1821 – and his aunt Elizabeth Branwell moved in to look after the children…. He was then to be deeply affected when his two eldest sisters, Maria and Elizabeth, were to die from TB shortly before his eighth birthday…. The four remaining Brontë children were to become very close….

Branwell, always on the small side for his age and with flaming red hair, was quick-witted and a bit of a show-off in public…. His father decided to educate him at home and taught him in the classics – whilst his sisters were sent away to boarding school….

In 1829 the children’s father hired the services of John Bradley, a local artist of some repute, to teach his children to draw…. It was possibly then that Branwell began to aspire to become a portrait painter…. In 1834 he painted a portrait of his sisters and himself – only to paint out his own image as he was dissatisfied with it…. The portrait now hangs in the National Portrait Gallery and is recognised as one of the best known images of the sisters….

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Branwell Bronte – Public domain

Branwell rented a studio in Bradford in 1838 and set himself up as a professional portrait painter…. Only he made a lot of friends in the artistic community and spent too much time in the pub and failed to make a living as an artist! In 1840 he took employment as tutor to the children of a wealthy family – but was sacked within a year…. Then for the next six months he worked as a clerk but again lost his job, over a discrepancy with the accounts….

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Branwell Bronte, self portrait, 1840 – Public domain

At the beginning of 1843 his sister Anne managed to secure him a job as a tutor – but once again, in 1845, he was sacked – seemingly after having an affair with his employer’s wife…. Returning to the family home in disgrace he fell into self-pity and soon became an alcoholic and addicted to opium…. Branwell died on the 24th of September 1848, possibly from TB….

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Self caricature of Branwell in bed waiting to die, 1847 – Patrick Branwell Bronte – Public domain

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