Archive (these items have now been sold)

(Enlarged Photo)


(Enlarged Photo - Sicily)


(Enlarged Photo - Lizard)


John Brett ARA (1830-1902), Lulworth Bay, Dorset

Oswald Bay, Lulworth, Dorset, 1870

Promontory of Naxos, Sicily, 1871

South West Gale from the Lizard, 1870

Watercolours, inscribed and dated


John Brett has been described as the landscape wing of the Pre-Raphaelite movement, with his minute attention to truthful detail and bright, almost lurid colours. His work is painstakingly ‘true’ and geographically accurate in a manner that endeared him to John Ruskin, but his landscapes – and particularly his seascapes – have a quality of heightened reality that make them almost dreamlike. Brett’s early work was in both watercolour and oil but after 1870, almost exclusively in the latter medium.

Our trio of miniature watercolours can be traced exactly, using Brett’s detailed diaries of the time, to the period just after the artist’s marriage. In fact ‘Oswald Bay’ and ‘South West Gale from the Lizard’ can be directly traced to Brett’s honeymoon trip in 1870, when he cruised along the south coast in his yacht, the ‘Viking’. The third ‘Promontory of Naxos’ dates from a trip Brett made to Italy the following year to observe an eclipse of the sun – he was a keen amateur scientist and astronomer.

Two of the three sketches seem to relate to – and could possibly be studies for - one of Brett’s most famous paintings: ‘The British Channel from the Dorsetshire Cliffs’, which can be seen at Tate Britain.


F.E Blackstone

Christies Sale, April 1893

Private Collection

My thanks to Charles Brett, John Brett’s great-grandson, for his help in tracing the provenance of these watercolours

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