Details & Cataloguing

Victorian, Pre-Raphaelite & British Impressionist Art


John Brett, A.R.A.
signed and dated l.l.: John Brett 1893
oil on canvas
106 by 213cm., 42 by 84in.
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The artist's studio sale, Christie's, London, 15 February 1902, lot 115; 
Christie's, London,  27 July 1967, lot 154


Royal Academy, London, 1894, no.546;
Manchester, 1894, no.314;
Oldham, 1896;
Manchester, Queen’s Park Gallery, 1896;
Nottingham, 1896;
Hull, 1897;
London, Royal British Society of Artists, 1901, no.260


Christiana Payne, John Brett: Pre-Raphaelite Landscape Painter, 2010, p.238.

Catalogue Note

The Parting Hour, painted in the latter years of Brett’s artistic career, displays a mountainous shoreline cast in the glow of twilight and illuminated by the small crescent moon reflecting on the calm waters. The painting is recorded to have been finished on 13 October 1893 and a smaller preparatory sketch completed earlier in July 1893, exhibits Brett’s reluctance to stray from this original preliminary painting of the twilight scene.

Working en plein air meant the majority of Brett’s sketches were produced in a single sitting that would usually take around two to three hours. The sizes of these sketches were usually small enough to be easily transported but Brett chose particular dimensions of the ‘double square’ layout due to his belief that ‘all paintable phenomena in nature occur within an angle of about 15 degrees above and below the horizon.’ (Brett, Three months on the Scottish Coast, 1886, p.10.) Evidently, Brett has put this theory into practise with his final painting of The Parting Hour.

The narrative within this scene is almost secondary to the atmospheric setting Brett has created using pale pinks and blues for the twilight sky. Through the title of the piece and the accompaniment of a sentence from an ‘Old Story’ at the Royal Academy exhibition of 1894 provides us with an idea of the theme of this scene, “They had habitually lain in wait to throw stones at him, but when he set out to quit their inhospitable shore they were sorry.” (The Royal Academy Exhibitors, p. 274).

The outline of half a dozen figures is just discernible against the still water and one form can be made out rowing away from this group. The combination of these elements suggests the title and meaning of this painting is two-fold; the moment in time in which the day has ended and separately the parting of someone from the ‘inhospitable shore’ with which there is a sense of regret.

Victorian, Pre-Raphaelite & British Impressionist Art