Brett has painted all parts of this scene, near and far, in equal detail. He has also cropped any foreground. This combination of naturalism and unusual composition often resulted in a distanced, objective appearance in Brett's works, confirming his claim that he attempted merely to paint what he saw. The critic John Ruskin has influenced Brett's naturalism but he later condemned Brett's art as 'the mirror... held up to nature; but it is Mirror's work, not Man's'.

Brett was a master of judgement in mixing watercolour with bodycolour. He did not, so like many of his contemporaries, employ the opaque pigment solely for the obvious highlights, but used it also to model depth and shadow. In this, one of Brett's earliest coastal scenes, there are brilliant touches in the cliffs and the surface of the sea as well as the distant town and hills. He must have had phenomenal eyesight - an essential requisite for astronomy and geology, two of his passions besides painting - in addition to the most delicate touch.

  • Presented by Sir Richard Cooper, Bt., 1917.
  • © Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery


Association Artist Organisation
Artist John Brett -


Type Position(s) Method Date(s) Notes
J. B./Oct/ 1863
Signature and date bottom right Handwritten 1863


Catalogue No. Venue Date(s)
Paintings and Drawings by the Pre-Raphaelites and their Followers
65 Russell-Coates Art Gallery, Bournemouth 1951-06-04 - 1951-08-07
English Eye II
5 Midlands Federation Travelling Exhibition 1958-01-01 - 1958-01-01
Rackham's Italian Exhibition
- Rackhams, Birmingham 1961 - 1961
English Artists in Italy
71 Victoria & Albert Museum 1968 - 1968
British Watercolours 1760-1930 from the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
60 Arts Council tour 1980 - 1981
Ruskin and the English Watercolour
115 Whitworth Art Gallery, University of Manchester 1989-04-07 - 1989-05-13
115 Holburne of Menstrie Museum, Bath 1989-05-26 - 1989-07-30
115 Bankside Gallery, London 1989-08-10 - 1989-09-10
British Watercolours from Birmingham
101 Tokyo Station Gallery 1991-06-01 - 1991-07-07
101 Museum of Fine Arts, Gifu, Japan 1991-07-12 - 1991-08-18
101 Daimaru Museum, Umeda (Osaka) 1991-08-21 - 1991-09-02
101 Yamanashi Prefectural Museum of Art, Kofu 1991-09-07 - 1991-10-20
101 Bankside Gallery, London 1992-01-22 - 1992-03-01
101 Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery 1992 - 1992
Victorian Landscape Watercolours
54 Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, USA 1992-09-09 - 1993-11-01
54 Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio, USA 1992-11-18 - 1993-01-03
54 Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery 1993-02-11 - 1993-04-12
Art Treasures of England: Regional Collections
239 Royal Academy, London 1998-01-22 - 1998-04-13
British Watercolour Artists in Italy
No cat no Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery 2000-09-30 - 2000-11-27
Pre-Raphaelite Vision: Truth to Nature
72 Tate Britain, London 2004-02-12 - 2004-05-03
72 Altes Museum, Berlin 2004-06-12 - 2004-09-19
72 Fundacion 'la Caixa', Madrid 2004-10-06 - 2005-01-09


Author(s) Date(s) Publisher Pages
Ruskin and the English Watercolour
1989 Whitworth Art Gallery, University of Manchester p.69, 115
British Watercolours from Birmingham: 150 Outstanding Works from the Permanent British Watercolours from Birmingham
Stephen Wildman 1991 Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery p.126, pl. 101
Victorian Landscape Watercolours
Christopher Newall, Scott Wilcox 1992 Yale Center for British Art p. 118, pl. 54
Art Treasures of England: Regional Collections
Professor Richard Verdi 1998 Royal Academy of Arts, London p.303, pl.239
Pre-Raphaelite Vision: Truth to Nature
2004 Tate Publishing p.126, pl.72

Associated places

Name Type
Sorrento, Italy Depicted

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