John Brett

Date of birth: 1830 — Date of death: 1902

Artist. Son of an army veterinary surgeon, Brett received sporadic art instruction, including lessons from the drawing-master J. D. Harding (1797-1863). He entered the Royal Academy Schools in 1853 and became a major watercolourist of the period. Deeply moved by the work of the Pre-Raphaelites and the writing of John Ruskin (1819-1900), Brett's interests led to his friendship with poet Coventry Patmore (1823-1896) and an introduction to William Holman Hunt (1827-1910). He visited Switzerland in 1856, where he met another painter on the fringe of the Pre-Raphaelite circle, J W Inchbold (1830-1888). Brett contributed to the 1857 Russell Place exhibition and was an early member of the Hogarth Club. Always inclined towards landscape painting, Brett gained the attention and encouragement of Ruskin after exhibiting at the Royal Academy in 1858. His best work derives from visits to Italy and the Mediterranean. Fascinated by the sea, he turned more towards marine subjects in the 1860s, especially favouring the rocky coasts of Devon, Cornwall and Channel Islands. Brett met his future wife, Mary Ann Howcraft, around 1869. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1871, reflecting his lifelong scientific interest.