Loch Awe – Scotland

JOHN BRETT ARA (1831-1902) Biography

Loch Awe – Scotland (Scotland, 1874)

Watercolour and graphite on paper
Signed and inscribed Loch Awe – Scotland and sketch from nature by J. Brett 1874 and numbered 6 in pencil


6.50inch high
11.50inch wide
(16.51 cm high)
(29.21 cm wide)
14.25inch framed height
19.00inch framed width
1.00inch framed depth
(36.19 cm framed height)
(48.26 cm framed width)
(2.54 cm framed depth)
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Description / Expertise

John Brett is the most important of the Pre-Raphaelite landscape painters influenced by Ruskin. His works embody an intense, minutely detailed vision of nature, painted in thin stains of brilliant colour.

From the 1860 onwards Brett turned increasingly to the sea for inspiration and began experimenting with pure marine or coastal scenes from his many summer explorations of the British coast around Devon, Cornwall, the Channel Islands, Scotland and North Wales in particular. Brett's Scottish views date mainly from the 1880s, although he was definitely there in 1874 Mist Rising in the Highlands 1874. His works usually display a detailed understanding of the geology and topography. His Scottish subjects include The Isle of Oronsay 26/8/1888; The Isle of Arran from Farland Head, 1886; A view of Arran, 28/7/1886; and other works include Lock Linnhe 21/8/1883; Dunollie Castle 3/8/1885; and Millport Bay 5/6/1888.

John Brett was taught by Richard Redgrave and the landscape painter J D Harding before entering the Royal Academy schools in 1853. His attitude to landscape painting was probably always coloured by his interest in the scientific observation of nature; he was a keen astronomer and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1871.

In the fourth volume of Modern Painters published in 1856, John Ruskin lamented that no contemporary artist seemed interested in creating representations that would be of value to geologists. Then a great admirer of Ruskin who he described as, one of the greatest lights of the age, John Brett immediately seized the challenge and set out to paint highly detailed geographical scenes all over north Italy and Britain.

A disciple of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, John Brett infused his landscapes with all the freshness and spontaneity of their work. The founders of the Brotherhood, Sir John Everett Millais and William Holman Hunt had sought to convey a truth in art by painting directly from nature. These watercolours of Scotland and Wales true ‘plein air’ paintings, some pointedly inscribed on the reverse: sketch from nature by J.Brett.

John Brett attracted the attention of Ruskin several times with various exhibits at the Royal Academy. Ruskin in fact devoted several pages of his Academy Notes to his The Val d’Aosta (1859)