Born in Boston, Massachusetts, Brown began his artistic career as an apprentice to the Boston wood-engraver, Abel Bowen, and produced numerous illustrations. He eventually decided to pursue painting, and made his first trip to Europe in 1832, where he received instruction from French painter, Eugene Isabey, in Paris. On his return to Boston, Brown exhibited frequently at the Boston Athenaeum, where his work was admired by American painter, Washington Allston. In 1839 Brown returned to Europe and settled in Italy, making a comfortable living for nearly twenty years by painting Italian landscapes to sell to tourists. In 1859 Brown returned to the United States; he exhibited at the Boston Athenaeum, Massachusetts; the Brooklyn Art Association, New York; the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia; and the National Academy of Design, New York City.