John Brett's Rocks on the Foreshore reflects the fact that Brett was a painter interested in observing nature as well as studying new scientific theories. This scientific interest pervades Brett's landscape paintings. For example, Brett uses meticulous realism by painting the rocks with much detail, which follows the Pre-Raphaelite style of portraying nature as the eye perceives it. Paying attention to the minute details within one's natural surroundings was considered necessary in order to be completely faithful and truthful to the image of nature.
However, Mike Hickox raises the idea in "Science and Religion in the Pre-Raphaelite Work of John Brett" that Brett's works are not meant to be strictly scientific, and that they actually include religious undertones that attempt to "reconcile religion with the findings of science." although Brett paints with photographic realism, Hickox questions the accuracy of Brett's depictions of nature, suggesting that Brett may portray the subject matters of his paintings to make an underlying symbolic point.
1. Does the painting appear to have deeper symbolic meaning? If so, what message could Brett be attempting to convey?
2. Does the painting seem like a true photographic representation of the landscape? What aspects of the painting make it appear realistic or unrealistic?
3. The commentary indicates that Brett liked to paint without retouching his work and that the spontaneity that this technique involved exists in Rocks on the Foreshore. Where do we see this spontaneous touch? What effect does it produce?
4. As one of Ruskin's pupils, Brett most certainly absorbed Ruskinian ideals while painting these landscapes. Does Rocks on the Foreshore abide by the Ruskinian style? What aspects of Ruskin does the painting incorporate?
Last modified 16 September 2004