John Brett, Pansies and Fern-shoots, a watercolour with bodycolour

England, AD 1862

An example of the influence of John Ruskin

Although Brett (1830-1902) studied at the Royal Academy of Art, London, his most intensely-felt education in art came from his reading of Ruskin, and his experience of Pre-Raphaelite painting.

Two months after the publication of Ruskin's fourth volume of Modern Painters ('Of Mountain Beauty', 1856), Brett hurried to Switzerland to render in paint all that he could of the Ruskinian ideal. The resulting Glacier at Rosenlaui (1856, Tate Gallery, London) with its precise observation of natural forms, each stone 'a mountain in miniature', greatly pleased Ruskin when he was shown it by Brett's friend Rossetti. Shortly after his return to England, Brett painted his masterpiece The Stonebreaker (1857-8, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool).

Although he continued to work within the Pre-Raphaelite circle, Brett never surpassed these early successes, turning for most of his subsequent career to panoramic marine views.

This intensely-observed, meticulous watercolour (with bodycolour), follows Ruskin's advise that the artist should approach nature 'rejecting nothing, selecting nothing and scorning nothing'.

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More information


L. Parris (ed.), The Pre-Raphaelites-1 (London, Tate, 1984)

J.A Gere, Pre-Raphaelite drawings in the (London, The British Museum Press, 1994)


Height: 153.000 mm
Width: 146.000 mm

Museum number

PD 1994-6-18-1



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