John BRETT

1830—1902

Born in Bletchingley, Surrey, the artist was a student of the RA Schools from 1853. He first visited Cornwall on honeymoon in 1870, staying on the Lizard, to which he returned repeatedly usually for several months at a time over the following thirty years. His stay at several locations in Cornwall is noted in his Biography - for example in September 1872, he was painting in St Ives.

His paintings Kennack Strand; Cornish Lions (1878); Under the Lizard Lights; Logan Bay; Porthcurnow; Newquay, Cornwall were all exhibited at the Whitechapel Exhibition of Cornish Artists in 1902.  John Ruskin, becoming a close friend of the artist, praised The Stone Breaker (1858) and Val d'Aosta (1859) early in his artistic career, and later he was known mainly for Cornish seascapes.  In all, he produced over two hundred paintings of Cornwall, including Mounts Bay (1877) and Britannia's Realm (1880). 

The following programme note was included at the Whitechapel Exhibition: 'The painter of these pictures, who died so recently, was one of the first to carry out the ideals of the Pre-Raphaelite painters in landscape, trying to render faithfully every fissure on the rocky cliffs, every moss and heath on the hillsides. The beauty of these pictures shows how much may be attained in work of this kind.'  The titles listed were all lent to the exhibition by a private collector. The artist treated all of his subjects in minute scientific detail, and was also a keen astronomer.