Rocks on the Foreshore

Rocks on the Foreshore by John Brett ARA (1830-1902). Late 1960s. Oil on canvas: 7 x 14 inches, 18 x 35.5 cm. Provenance: Thomas Agnew & Son

Commentary by Hillary Morgan

This landscape study was painted from nature in a period when Brett painted his large canvases In the studio as 'abstracts of several observations.' Brett approached landscape painting in a spirit of scientific observation declaring 'sentiment in landscape is chiefly dependent on meteorology'. He systematised his artistic practice in a similar 'scientific' way. Most of his studies have standard dimensions of which 7 X 14 inches is the most usual, and the large paintings usually maintain the same proportions.

However the studies retain a freshness the paintings often lack. This example is probably an early work produced in the late 1860s at the end of his most intensely Pre-Raphaelite phase. It is signed, but not dated. In his later phase, certainly after 1870, Brett reserved his signature for finished exhibition paintings but dated his studies, usually inscribing them with the point of the brush into the wet paint. The other quality that suggests an early date is the use of a glazing technique, particularly noticeable in the sea. Brett prided himself on working directly without retouching and the spontaneous touch is clearly visible here.

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Related Materials


Waters, Bill. Burne-Jones — A Quest for Love: Works by Sir Edward Burne-Jones Bt and Related Works by Contemporary Artists. London: Peter Nahum, 1993. Catalogue number 60.

Last modified 12 June 2020