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September 2013

Posted on 05/09/2013


Carthillon Cliffs, 1878 


John Brett (1831-1902)

Oil paint on canvas

Purchased for Thomas Holloway, 1883; acc. no. THC 0002

As we are in the final weeks of the holidays I have chosen this sparkling, sun-filled painting to remind us of the amazing summer we have had this year.

This landscape picture shows the Cornish coast, near Lizard town, looking north-west towards Kynance Cove. By the 1870s John Brett had settled into the rhythm of holidaying by the coast during the summer in order to make sketches of the landscape, and then working these up into oil paintings in his studio over the winter.

Brett painted in the Pre-Raphaelite style using bright, jewel-like colours and following their doctrine of studying nature attentively. The rocks and lichen are painted in minute detail, faithfully recording the geological and botanical features of the area. As well as an artist Brett was a knowledgeable scientist, interested in geology, meteorology and astronomy. He was also a keen sailor and had his own yacht upon which he liked to wear a captain’s uniform. His common-law wife banned him from taking their children on board the ship after a dramatic mutiny by his hired crew who rebelled against his tyrannical leadership (1).

Cathillon Cliffs is one of six paintings to feature in a new audio-highlights tour of the Picture Gallery which will be rolled out in the Autumn term. To access the tour visitors use their own android phones to swipe stands embedded with the technology behind oyster cards. It has been developed in partnership with Professor Keith Mayes and his PhD students in RHUL’s Smart Card Centre. Do come along to try it at one of the curator talks or open afternoons starting next month.

Dr Laura MacCulloch, College Curator

 (1) I would like to thank Dr Christina Payne, Oxford Brookes University, for the information on Brett and his sailing activities.

The dates and subjects of the talks are:


Introduction to the Royal Holloway and Bedford New College Art Collection

 Wednesday 2 October 1-2pm

Thursday 17 October 1-2pm


The Railway Station

 Monday 28 October 1-2pm

Wednesday 13 November 1.50-2.20pm


The Princes in the Tower

Thursday 28 November 1-2pm

Wednesday 4 December 1-2pm


The dates for the open afternoons (11am-4pm) are:

20 and 27 November 2013



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