Polpeor Cove, The Lizard, Cornwall

John Brett (1831 - 1902)

Oil on canvas

August 1876
  • About the work

    In this view of the Polpeor Cove in Cornwall, with its jagged grey-brown rocks and turquoise blue water, painter John Brett has skilfully evoked the fresh, natural beauty of the Cornish coast.

    During the 1870s Brett turned almost exclusively to marine subjects and owned a succession of sailing boats, from which some of his coastal scenes were painted. Brett spent many summers on the Cornish coast, where he painted numerous small paintings like this one, some of which were later used as the basis for larger works exhibited at the Royal Academy. In total, Brett is thought to have made over 200 studies of the coast of Cornwall. A visitor to the Royal Academy summer exhibition of 1881, viewing a Cornish landscape by Brett, was struck by the artist's obvious affection for the area: 'Those who in anyway equal Mr Brett in his love for the Cornish coast will find it hard to tear themselves away from this picture.'

  • About the artist
    John Brett was born in Bletchingley, Surrey; the son of an army captain. He studied at the Royal Academy Schools and became an admirer of the Pre-Raphaelites and of John Ruskin. Influenced by Ruskin’s ‘Of Mountain Beauty’ he travelled to Switzerland to paint the Glacier of Rosenlaui. Ruskin later advised and tutored him, until their well-documented falling out. During the 1870s Brett painted mostly marine subjects and owned a succession of sailing boats to paint from. He frequently painted the Cornish coast. He was also a keen astronomer and a member of the Royal Astronomical Society from 1871. Brett lived near Oxford Street in London, before building a bungalow at Keswick Road, Putney, in 1877 and then Daisyfield on Putney Heath in 1888.
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  • Details
    Polpeor Cove, The Lizard, Cornwall
    August 1876
    Oil on canvas
    height: 25.40 cm, width: 48.50 cm
    Purchased from Christie's, 5 June 2008
    br: Polpeor / Aug 1876
    Collection of Mrs William Harris (by 1894); with Christopher Wood; sold through Christie's, London, on 5 June 2008 (Lot 12)
    GAC number