Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Bonchurch Downs

John Brett (British, Bletchingly 1831–1902 London)
Sheet: 12 in. × 16 1/2 in. (30.5 × 41.9 cm)
Credit Line:
Harry G. Sperling Fund, 2015
Accession Number:
Not on view
Precise natural details convey a dreamlike stillness in this Isle of Wight landscape. A sharply canted section of coastal down allows Brett to contrast purplish-gray rocks with pale grass and rusty winter foliage, as dappled touches of brilliant color describe a patch of distant sea. Wandering cows and a signal mast silhouetted against the sky suggest an unseen human presence. Brett’s early career had been molded by the leading critic John Ruskin, who acted as his mentor until a scientific argument caused a rift in 1865. Painted shortly after their parting, Bonchurch Downs still honors Ruskin’s famous advice that artists should "go to Nature in all singleness of heart . . . rejecting nothing, selecting nothing, and scorning nothing."
Inscription: Inscribed lower center: "John Brett Dec-r 1865"
Alfred Morrison; Christie's, London, Jan. 28, 1899 (15); Leggatt Brothers; Phillips, London, October 31, 1983 (88); Martyn Gregory, in 1984; Christie's, London, November 13, 1992 (88); Vendor: Martyn Gregory
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Drawings and Prints: Selections from the Permanent Collection," April 12–July 18, 2016.

Payne 480
Royal Academy of Arts Exhibition of the Royal Academy of Arts, Ninety-Eighth. London, 1866, cat. no. 733.

Christie's, London Fine Victorian Pictures, Drawings and Watercolours. [Sale catalogue]. November 13, 1992, lot 88, p. 56, ill.

Allen Staley The Pre-Raphaelite Landscape. Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2001 (third edition), chapter 10: John Brett, pp. 168-86, discusses Brett's landscapes and his relationship to the Pre-Raphaelites.

Allen Staley, Christopher Newall, Alison Smith, Ian Warrell, Tim Batchelor Pre-Raphaelite Vision: Truth to Nature Ex. cat., Tate Britain, London, 12 Feb.-3 May, 2004; Altes Nationalgalerie, Berlin, 12 June-19 Sept., 2004; Fundació "la Caxia," Madrid, 6 Oct. 2004-9 Jan. 2005. London, 2004, cat. nos. 22, 71-2, 85-6, 101, 106, 124, 145 discuss Brett and place his works in a contemporary context.

Christiana Payne John Brett, Pre-Raphaelite Painter. New Haven, 2010, cat. no. 480, p. 210; ch. 6, "British Waters, 1865-869," pp. 88-103 discusses works of this period., ill.

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