John Brett, ARA (British, 1831-1902) A strong sou-wester on an iron-bound coast (Painted circa 1883-1884)

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Lot 38
John Brett, ARA
(British, 1831-1902)
A strong sou-wester on an iron-bound coast

Sold for £ 15,062 (US$ 19,402) inc. premium
John Brett, ARA (British, 1831-1902)
A strong sou-wester on an iron-bound coast
signed and indistinctly dated 'John Brett' (lower right)
oil on canvas
61.5 x 122.5cm (24 3/16 x 48 1/4in).
Painted circa 1883-1884

Footnotes

  • Provenance
    Commissioned by Dr James Watt Black, November 1883.
    Returned to the artist 1885 in exchange for Carnarvon Bar (unlocated).
    Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 1888, as The Cowlow Rocks, Cornwall, in a SW gale.
    Returned to the artist 1889.
    The artist's studio sale; Christie's, London, 15 February 1902, lot 111, as Granite Boulders, bought 'Nasmyth' for 56 gns.
    Anon. sale, Sotheby's, London, 30 November 2000, lot 385, as A friend in need.
    Private collection, UK.

    Exhibited
    London, Royal Academy, 1884, no. 1553, as A south-westerly gale: Cornish coast.
    Liverpool, 1885, no. 1110, for sale at £300.
    Birmingham, Royal Birmingham Society of Arts, 1886, no. 233, for sale at £250.
    London, Guildhall, 1890, no. 125.
    Sevenoaks, 1891, for sale at £200.
    Oldham, 1900, for sale at 200gns.
    York, 1901.
    Manchester, 1901.
    Penzance, Penlee House Gallery and Museum, John Brett – A Pre-Raphaelite in Cornwall, 1 April - 10 June 2006.

    Literature
    Charles Brett, Michael Hickox & Christiana Payne, John Brett – A Pre-Raphaelite in Cornwall, 2006, p. 119 (illustrated).
    Christiana Payne & Charles Brett, John Brett - Pre-Raphaelite Landscape Painter, New Haven, 2010, p. 228, no. 1049, illustrated p. 149, colour plate 127.

    Charles Brett wrote of the present painting on the occasion of its inclusion in the exhibition John Brett – A Pre-Raphaelite in Cornwall: 'This picture has a very interesting and rather chequered history. It began life as A Strong sou-wester on an iron-bound coast, and was commissioned in November 1883 by Brett's friend and patron Dr James Watt Black for £300. Brett's Book of Pictures states that it was 'painted with copal & poppy & some lavender', and was 'done from an old sketch of the Cowlow rock from Sennen belonging to [Alfred] Morrison'. As a young man, Black was consultant gynaecologist to Morrison's wife, and he must have seen and admired the sketch during visits to the Morrisons at 16 Carlton House Terrace. The work was finished in time for the Academy in 1884, where it appeared as A south-westerly gale: Cornish coast. The following year, however, Black decided it was too dark for his drawing-room, and exchanged it for another work. Brett changed its title to The Cowlow Rocks, Cornwall, in a SW gale, and on the recommendation of T.L. Devitt, it was bought in February 1888 for the Public Gallery at Sydney, NSW for 200 guineas. But in Sydney the authorities took against it, and in March 1889 it was returned to England. As Brett wrote in his Studio Log, 'I found out that they knew that my best pictures at the RA fetched long prices (up to 1200) and as they wanted only a first rate specimen they despised a picture that only cost £210. And in fact sent it back (NB it is a thoroughly good picture) ... Now the question is what shall I do with it? It is a picture rejected by a colonial corporation!!!! Everybody knows it and it has no selling value. Unlucky picture!!!' [...] Brett was clearly justified in maintaining that it is a thoroughly good picture. The offshore Cowlow Rocks and the foreground boulders are painted with great precision, and the scene's stormy atmosphere is powerfully conveyed'.

    It must be presumed that the artist himself put the painting in its present frame – of the distinctive design that he favoured for his exhibition works in the later years of his career – sometime after 1896, in which year the composition entitled A friend in need had been shown at the Royal Academy. The two canvases were identical in size and therefore interchangeable in terms of their framing. Brett would have been likely to have done this in preparation for sending A strong sou-wester to public exhibitions in 1900 and 1901. This explains why labels relating to A friend in need (which painting, incidentally, has been unlocated since 1988) are attached to the frame.

    We are grateful to Charles Brett for his assistance in cataloguing this lot.
Contacts
John Brett, ARA (British, 1831-1902) A strong sou-wester on an iron-bound coast (Painted circa 1883-1884)
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